Nobody has yet mentioned Lidl/Aldi for many of the basics. Bamboo t-shirts are much nicer to wear than cotton ones, and Aldi has them once a year at £4.99 (check out their website every so often), ski/hiking/running tops are generally very good value as a base/light mid layer, and their hiking socks/hats/neckwarmers are good value. In fact Lidl have offers coming up on Thurdsay, and socks, tops (£2.99 - how can you go wrong?), and possibly even trousers might be worth a look.
I'd avoid army surplus - much as I love my german army boots (£20, comfortable and very hardwearing), they are extremely heavy, as is most surplus stuff.
TKMax is good for gloves (Ok, mostly ski ones), hats, socks, and Craghopper trousers (nobody pays full price for Craghoppers). Debenhams/Beales often knock them out cheap as well. TKM often has good Keela fleeces for about a tenner, and running type baselayers are good value (they often have US brands, so don't be put off if you've never heard of them). I even got some Patagonia stuff for my wife once in there!
Cotswolds is generally a good bet for decent stuff, and because they are a large chain, they often have OKish deals (see Rock Bottom section). They have Exploremore, which is a way for them to market stuff to you. However, you can get some good deals, including 10% off your first purchase - which can help on boots, rucksack or jacket purchases.
Alpkit is great for headtorches (the Gamma), well-priced sleeping mats, very well priced down sleeping bags, excellent drybags and generally nice stuff. Filo's for £80 at the moment.......all sold out
Of course if you can find it, there is the fabled Rab factory shop, where Rab, Pod and Lowe Alpine stuff is to be found at very decent prices....
I would advise spending the most money on decent boots, a good jacket and possible a good daysack. Metric Kate is right - start with walking, and then go from there. If you hate walking, you've still got a good waterproof for the morning commute (thats how I justified my first 'proper' jacket - it was worth every penny, even at £110), and good boots/fleece etc for when its snowed and you have to go out of the house. If you like it, then you can buy more stuff, and then better stuff.
Good tip - Dont Forget the Duct Tape - great little book, and very useful showing how to repair stuff (if you get second hand stuff, then you might have to) - £2.17 for a copy plus postage is a bargain. The same author has a new one out, but this one covers most of it.
Since Bradbury et al are probably freelancers, they are free to buy what they like (the BBC gets a very good group deal from Berghaus). Mammut was canny enough to send Bradbury a load of stuff on spec for her Iceland trip, and she seems to keep using it. If it works, and didn't cost you anything, you'd probably use it as well.
Frankly, I'm sure there are more important things to worry about, such what any number of farmers are wearing while being filmed trying to get their livestock out of snowdrifts...
The selection of tents and bags are a bit sorry, and the Cotswold catalogue that came in the post today has the Vango Banshee 200 cheaper ('RRP £120 OUR PRICE £99') - so not exactly a bargain.
The thing with a website, as opposed to a shop, is that you can feature your high level stuff. It all comes from a central warehouse (and you can have it sent to a local store for collection, which drives footfall in the physical stores as well), without having to stock each store, which might sell one a month.
Why not put some of the cooler stuff from their range on the site, if only to get people like us to visit it. You will make sales, and its internet eye candy.
Hopefully they'll learn that you can sell to a range of people, if you do it right. Cotswold seem to do OK for a chain in getting the mix right, with higher sales and their stores are attractive (OK, so its not REI, but still..). On the other hand, they are not making much of a profit either (1% profit on turnover is very tight).
Go Outdoors is apparently going down the ultra-Millets/Mountain Warehouse route (remember when they were a good little shop?) - own brand stuff only, with constant 'bargains'. We'll see how that works out.
I hope Blacks up their game - they apparently poached a former exec from Cotswold last year as their new MD, so perhaps they will. I certainly dont want any more empty shops on the High Street
Whatever the delights of Sports Direct, Fatwalker points up their USP - they are cheap. Like Poundland, Primark, etc they are at one end of the market, where price/ perceived value is paramount. Service is seemingly less important, and they are not a destination shop. At the upper end of the market, you see a similar pattern, with stores offering high levels of service, a good shopping experience, etc also doing well.
The biggest problem is in the middle, with businesses which are basically bimbling along. They are not particularly good on price, nor on service. They are in often expensive, but not essentially good locations, and their web presence is often poor. They are getting killed by everyone.
Rewrite also has a point. No matter how wonderful your shop, if your in a dying High Street, which has social drinkers by the door and empty stores, then you have a problem. You can get away with a slightly down at heel area if your Poundland, but not if you are looking for selling products above a tiny margin.
Comet is the classic case of this. Not great on service, with stores that were cramped, and often in poor locations, and reliant on products which have very low margin and huge competition from the net, supermarkets, etc. My local Comet was in a slightly underwhelming mini shopping centre (at the wrong end of the High Street) next to an Iceland, and opposite Peacocks, near to Asda. And apparently a competitor moved because the rent was too high there, so not even a cheap place to do business. At least Currys realised that out of town shopping centres did make sense, but Comet were much slower.
Retailers that were just getting by have to get a lot better, but so do councils, govt and landlords. I went down the local 'High Street' today, and looked at the shops. On one side, not too bad, although it took two years for TKMaxx to take over the old Woolies, and the M & S will probably close, since its an artifact of past shopping patterns. There is a gambing place, the Works, and a temp mobile store in a former Clintons, but not too bad (OK - there is a Mountain Warehouse...).
The other side doesn't look to bad at first, but out of about 24 units, 6 are empty, and there are three others which are underused (the local college is using one, etc). It could be worse, but could be a lot better. The problem with that side of the street is that its in many ways the most important in the city. Thats where the town hall is - in fact those shops are the ground floor of the Town Hall. If they have about a quarter of their own units empty, what hope is there for anyone else? They have spent millions on fountains that are embedded in the paving in the square nearby. so that immediately makes us a prime shopping location...
Councils have to start making city centres attractive places, with a range of stores (if a council thinks that having a clone town will work, think whats happened to Comet, Ethel Austin, HMV, Bloackbuster, Clintons,Jessops, etc). Sadly, it looks as if they still dont get it .
The business rates for a industrial estate can be 1% per sq foot of that of a High Street store, even though Amazon will be competing directly with that shop (and paying no corporate tax) - business rate should be revised in view of the realities, and certainly not go up each year, no matter what. And that goes for landlords - automatically raising rents each year will just mean empty stores.
Rewrite - you seem to have looked at my local High Street as well! Frankly, once M & S move out, the only real 'destination shop' will be TKMaxx (occupying a previously empty Woolworths). The really sad thing is that the Town Hall is in the High Street, and the cathedral is at one end of it. Should be lovely, but its a bit of a dump.
I didn't know that B & Q and Screwfix were part of the same group. Admittedly, Screwfix is basically Argos for builders, so they don't really have to worry about being especially fancy, but I wish someone would have a word with B & Q. Just getting some wood cut is a soul destroying experience.
On the other hand, by rights Sports Direct should be empty - cheap tat with all the customer service of Purgatory, and yet its seemingly about to take over the world.