10/03/2011 18:31 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Boutique Of The Week: The Secret Arcade

We all know that online shopping is convenient and a major time-saver, but who doesn't still love the physical act of wandering around the shops on a Saturday afternoon? Could The Secret Arcade give us the best of both worlds?

We spoke to co-founder Denise Allan to find out more:

boutique of the week; the secret arcade; online shopping The Secret Arcade: as close as you can get to actual shopping, from the comfort of home. Pic: The Secret Arcade

Denise, can you please explain to our readers the Secret Arcade Concept and what inspired you to create it?
We love shopping in places such as The Lanes in Brighton, The Covered Market in Oxford and the many wonderful and historic arcades in Paris. It is the quirky variety of independent shops and boutiques in these areas that inspired us to create something similar for online shoppers. We wanted to emulate that feeling of 'what will we discover around the next corner?' that you get when you wander the narrow streets and hidden passages of these areas that are full of surprises and hidden gems.

How many shops are there currently in the online arcade and what led you to choose them?
We currently have 28 shops, which were all chosen for their high quality products and excellent websites but above all for their uniqueness. We took a long time choosing the right shops as we wanted an arcade full of different experiences rather than a repetition of the same things. So we are really happy with the balance of shops we've got.

Bluebellgrey, offering stunning handpainted soft furnishings, is just one of The Secret Arcade's 28 shops. Pic: The Secret Arcade

What is the range of goods on offer in the arcade?
We have seven categories which we call Passages that range from homeware, books and paper goods to fashion accessories, haberdashery, children's goods, perfume and flowers. We love the fact that you can buy a wonderful antique door handle in the same venue as a beautiful artist print or a gorgeous pair of shoes!

Will the mix of shops featured change/be added to as time goes on?
Yes, we will be adding different shops each year, though we are restricting the numbers to a maximum of 50 as we want to retain the exclusivity that comes with a well chosen few. We are also developing a food hall, full of artisan products that you can buy online and also an antiques passage. This again reflects the array of products you come across in 'real' shopping areas, which we feel will give another dimension to The Secret Arcade.

boutique of the week; the secret arcade; online boutiques; ray stitch haberdashery Ray Stitch haberdashery for buttons, wool and more. Pic: The Secret Arcade

What do you hope a visitor to the arcade will get from their online shopping experience at the arcade that they can't get elsewhere?
We hope visitors will encounter a quality shopping experience on a site that has really thought about providing an unusual mix of e-retailers that are all passionate about what they make and sell. We feel that the current collection of shops are all gems that deserve a platform to reach as many visitors as possible.

Do you have a current favourite shop in the arcade?
This is a bit like asking who is your favourite child! We love them all.

You also created The Shop Floor Project – do you have plans for any more sites in the future?
We are constantly thinking about new ventures and are regularly asked to design sites for individuals - but we are so busy at the moment developing our two current sites that we dare not think too far ahead!

For a weather-proof wander around the shops, check out