Bread, milk... and a manicure. Do groceries and feeling glam really mix?
Tesco's store at Knocknagoney now boasts a beauty parlour with very purse-friendly prices. Maureen Coleman sees if she can bag her inner goddess during the weekly shop.
While Kim Kardashian might flash perfectly manicured nails when she pops out to pick up a carton of milk, few women have the time, or inclination, to groom themselves ahead of the weekly supermarket shop.
Most are just relieved to make it from the frozen foods aisle to the check-out, having had to cope with hungry children, long queues and other stressed-out shoppers.
With all that to contend with, looking good usually comes far down the list of priorities.
But what if you could shop and preen at the same time, and at a highly competitive price?
Supermarket giant Tesco, whose flagship Knocknagoney store has recently undergone a £2.3m makeover, likes to tell us 'Every Little Helps' and as part of the revamp, shoppers can now sit back, relax and enjoy a selection of pampering treatments at the store's Beautyworld outlet.
The first of its kind at Tesco in Northern Ireland, Beautyworld stocks some of the biggest names in cosmetics, from perennial favourites Rimmel, Bourjois and Maybelline to luxury brand products such as the aromatherapy oil-based Tisserand and specialist nail and skincare products by Dr Lewinn.
There are six beauty consultants and six advisers to offer advice on everything beauty-related, from choosing the perfect foundation to applying false eyelashes. And at a Regis-run Nail Bar, three therapists offer a range of treatments, including teeth whitening priced at just £50, a gel manicure for £20, 3D brows at £12.50 and eyebrow threading for £5.
Last week I was dispatched to the store to discover my inner goddess while doing the weekly shop.
My normal pampering sessions usually involve being whisked off by a beauty therapist to my own private room, where I'm waxed, tinted and tanned to a soothing musical backdrop of birdsong. So how would I feel in a less intimate environment?
First of all, Beautyworld is situated in a fairly secluded section of the store, away from prying eyes. It's brightly lit, well laid out and there are always consultants on hand to help. Prices are extremely competitive, while another bonus is that you don't have to book an appointment.
Client turnover is fairly fast – threading takes a few minutes, gel manicures less than half an hour. If all the therapists are busy, you can simply get on with your shopping, have a coffee and come back when they're free. It's that convenient and easy.
While a therapist treated me to a gel manicure, a number of other clients stopped by for a bit of 'me time'.
One woman, a busy mum, was delighted to find this little oasis of calm in the midst of a busy store. As she had her gel nails applied, she explained that she had little time for herself.
She loved the idea of indulging in a pampering session while doing the grocery run and said that she'd definitely be back.
During my manicure, a steady stream of women, ranging from students to harassed mums, dropped by the Nail Bar to enquire about treatments. Several had their eyebrows threaded before carrying on with their grocery run.
BeautyWorld manager at Tesco Knocknagoney Jill Bleakney says: "We will be doing three for the price of two promotions on popular and affordable brands – we're currently running this offer with Barry M. Meanwhile, we will be getting special gift sets from the premium brands which will offer incredible value for beauty junkies.
"We've had women of all ages coming in, from a 13-year-old girl buying her first foundation to a woman who's worn the same lipstick for 30 years and wanted to try something new.
"The Nail Bar is proving particularly popular. There's no appointment necessary for a treatment – you just walk in and decide what pampering treat to have. We will, of course, be offering the latest procedures in store, such as 3D Brows and foundation matches. It really is a one-stop shop."
As part of the roll-out of its 'next generation' store, Tesco Knocknagoney has added a phone shop, a community room where locals can meet and the first Virgin Travel outlet.
"The changes have been significant and with the addition of many new features, including Beautyworld, we believe we are offering shoppers something completely new and different," says store manager Nicola Irvine.
"This is now a location, where, under one roof, they can do their shop, relax and chill and even pamper themselves."
Beautyworld doesn't claim to be the ultimate, indulgent experience. What it does provide is accessibility and affordability.
And who knows, perhaps Tesco might even expand its range of treatments towards offering a little relaxation – Indian head massage or a shoulder massage would doubtless go a long way towards destressing those hassled shoppers.
As for me? I left with a gel manicure and a bottle of Kardashian self-tan. I may never look like Kim, but at least I'll be bronzed, with pretty pink nails, for my next weekly shop.
How we love to pamper ourselves ...
There is no shortage of treatments, tweaks and much else besides out there for women. Here are some of the most popular right now:
HD Brows – move over threading, these are the next big thing in eyebrows. Involving tweezing, waxing and filling in the colour to create the ultimate arch, these brows are the ones all the celebrities are going for
Brazilian Blow-Dry – beloved by those with frizzy hair, this provides poker-straight hair for up to 12 weeks. As with many new treatments it initially cost around £250 but prices have dropped rather dramatically since then
Gel manicure – better than just a manicure, gel nail paint can last up to three weeks without chipping. Normally applied by a professional, the lacquer requires a UV lamp to secure. You can now also get gel nails – false nails that are more natural-looking
Teeth whitening – previously a costly procedure performed only by dentists, nowadays supermarkets and chemists stock a range of do-it-yourself kits.
Nail colour – every season sees bigger and bright colours from some of the biggest names in beauty. If you want to make a statement with your nails you can spend anything between £1.99 and £30 on a single nail colour