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If you want a Royal good time, head for East Sheen’s Party Palace – a shop which contains all the ingredients for a successful knees-up.

 

The premises are a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of items guaranteed to put a smile on your face and hopefully keep everyone else amused.  There are literally thousands to choose from – from false beards, Afro wigs, masks, funny eyeglasses, balloons, hats, laser swords, glow sticks, to full-scale fancy dress outfits such as Ninja Fighters, Hot Firemen, Captain Marvels, Saucy Sailor Girls, Catwomen, and Pirate Wenches.  There’s even a werewolf make-up kit complete with plastic fangs and a giant hairy spider to be worn as a hat!

Last year one of the hottest items were fake Bradley Wiggins sideburns following the British cyclist’s successes in the Tour de France and the Olympics.  The Palace sold hundreds of them.

“This is a fun business,” says owner Adrienne D’Souza, who opened the shop five years ago with her husband Lloyd.  “I’d much rather be doing this than say, for example, selling groceries. We get to meet people who are excited because they are planning to hold or going to a party.”  She explained that after years of working in the toy retail trade, including spell in Harrods toy department, she dreamed of having her own party shop.

“These are large premises, which used to be a furniture shop, so it was a massive gamble.  But I backed my hunch and it has worked,” she said.

The Palace attracts customers from a wide area and it often gets extremely busy.

“Halloween is our peak period,” explains Adrienne.  “We do an immense amount of business and the shop gets very crowded.  It’s absolute bedlam but we love it.”

Surprisingly, the biggest selling item all year round is the humble balloon.  At the Palace they come in all shapes and sizes and colours. They occupy a large section of the shop and there is a balloon for every occasion.

“Everyone likes balloons and we sell at least 500 every Saturday,” added Adrienne.  “But this is a very seasonal business so we are constantly changing our displays to reflect what is coming up. You have to be on the ball.  The trick is knowing your customers and providing what they want.”

For example, she and her husband soon realised after they opened that they had underestimated the local demand for children’s items, from parties to fancy dress, and swiftly expanded this side of the business.

“When local schools do a project on the Romans or the Tudors, they have a day when the children dress up in historical costume. We cater for this.

“Also, when they study a book, the kids like to dress up as one of their favourite characters.”

Reflecting on changing trends among the grown-ups, Adrienne revealed that baby showers for new mums-to-be have gone from zero to hugely popular in the past five years, followed by a similar rise in demand for outfits for hen parties.
But while she loves keeping her customers happy, there is one time of the year when having so many items under one roof turns into a nightmare.
“That’s when we do our stock-taking in January.  It’s really painful,” she joked.
A Party Palace, 487-493 Upper Richmond Rd West, East Sheen, SW14 7PU

This interview and photographs have been provided by three local volunteers, as part of the East Sheen Village local shops heritage project, the aim of which is to record the uniqueness of East Sheen high street at a point in time, 2013.

We would like to thank:

Bob Lisney for the wonderful photography and initiation of the project.
Mark Dowdney for carrying out the interviews with the business owners.
Richard Osborne for the coordination of the project.