There’s a new shop in town that’s hard not to notice. I step into ‘Neon Sheep’, flanked by two fluorescent pink sheep, curious to see what I’m going to encounter. It’s around three on a Friday afternoon and I feel an immediate buzz in the air.

The place is crowded with teenagers and a Tom Odell song is playing loudly. I take in the zest of the new and fantastical décor. The wallpaper is photographed vibrant green grass blooming with daisies, reaching all the way to the back of the shop, and on the back wall is a fluorescent pink sign, ‘Shear Delights.’ On the units near the tills I notice lightbulb-shaped bottles filled with rose-gold paper clips beside magnetic decision-makers.

Initially, it feels random. I notice three upside-down sheep on the ceiling grazing on a patch of grass. I look again to make sure I am not hallucinating! This quirky and offbeat ‘new retailer on the block’ is made for gifting, having researched consumer trends and social media as their inspiration; impressively they’ve adapted to new trends and invested in product innovation.

It’s clear that younger consumers and millennials are increasingly attracted to shopping experiences where they can relate to the fluffy cats or flamingo prints that they see on Instagram and Snapchat. I feel as if I have stepped into a 21st century animation in which the technical director has decided to turn up the colour dial and saturate the place in fluorescent pinks, greens and blues. I’m surrounded by a younger generation, all resonating on the same wavelength.

I’m not sure what the purpose of these sort of shops are. It’s pure light-hearted retail therapy, I guess. They say that shopping in the future is going to become more of a social experience. Rather than just buying things, shops may become a place to spend an hour or two over a drink and chat with like-minded people. There may be some live entertainment involved, and even a sense of belonging to a club.

Some say shopping is a pleasure and an escape from boredom, a flight from the self.

We’re often beguiled to make a purchase that will make us more beautiful in some way or distract us from our lives. In affluent areas, like St Albans, shops are evolving and unless they hold a certain imaginative charm, distract, fascinate and engage us, they may not survive. Neon Sheep’s giftware certainly overlaps with other local innovative and design-led retailers like Tiger, Oliver Bonas and Paperchase.

I sip my cappuccino as I take in the ambience, looking at some useful items like mugs, yoga mats and socks. A small lunch box with the letter ‘WTF’ then in brackets, ‘Where’s the food?!’

An entire unit is dedicated to unicorns, from rulers to rucksacks, lunch boxes, colouring books and a glitter-pink notebook that says ‘Roll me in fairy dust and call me a Unicorn!’ I flick through a unicorn cookbook filled with party food like Stardust cupcakes and intergalactic toffee.

I love the notebook covers embossed with inspirational phrases like ‘Dreamer Extraordinaire.’ I upturn an hourglass and watch the white sand slipping away, my mind flashes with the image of the witch’s twisted face from the Wizard of Oz as Dorothy’s time runs out.

A fellow shopper sees me smiling at the sight of a neon pink sheep nightlight. I look at her and we ask ourselves, why would we want to look at a neon farm animal in the evening light? Surely a warmly lit hummingbird in mid-flight might be more inspiring? But then we are hardly millennials and our minds are wired so very differently.

As I leave the shop clutching a soft leather notebook and a unicorn pen I pass a mum saying to her toddler in her pushchair: “Oh, look up there at the upside down sheep on the ceiling. That’s not right!” The toddler, looking slightly puzzled, gazes back at her mummy as if to say “You think?!"

  • Marisa Laycock moved from south west London to St Albans in 2000. She enjoys sharing her experiences of living in the city.