From a shopper’s perspective, frequent traveling can be crippling. It can get worse in the holiday season where Christmas dominates many people’s calendars. Why buy something in one city when a trip to a better shopping city is coming up?
To pinpoint which cities around the world deliver the most gratifying, enjoyable shopping experiences, we consulted global experts, such as fashion merchandising firm Donegar Creative Services and Marie Bergfelt, senior spokesperson for Global Blue, which publishes the Globe Shopper City Index.
Then we judged cities in four areas, using a one-to-10 scoring scale for each category:
1. Getting around: Quality of public transportation, affordability and availability of cabs, transport time
2. Value: Bargain opportunities, such as sale seasons and average prices.
3. Variety: Number of available brands, range of shopping categories, quantity of upscale shops, department stores, boutique and vintage retailers and market stalls.
4. Experience: City beauty, quality of window displays and shop décor, friendliness and competence of clerks and service staff, dining and accommodation options.
Then we charged into the breach.
1. New York
Getting around: 8 Value: 7 Variety: 10 Experience: 10 Total: 35
In what other city do you see a toddlers running around in perfectly matching Tory Burch ballet flats and tiny purses or be able to go on curated vintage shopping sprees? “This town has so much diversity in style and interpretations of chic,” says New York-based fashion editor and stylist Stella Lee. For something you can’t simply Google up, Lee recommends vintage showroom Rare Vintage for “anyone who is visiting and in search of a shopping gem unique to NYC”. “You can find pieces from every possible era spanning the entire last century of fashion history, and from a wide range of design houses including the likes of Galanos, Dior, Givenchy, Ungaro, Pierre Cardin, Ossie Clark, and more,” says Lee.
Getting around: 8 Value: 8 Variety: 9 Experience: 9 Total: 34
The ultimate Tokyo shopping experience is the department store. Walk into one and you’ll be met like a royal. Global chain Isetan has its mammoth flagship store in Shinjuku, eight separate buildings stretched along two blocks. Isetan has English, Chinese and Korean-speaking staff and a personalized interpretation service, as well as shopping consultants who will advise you on everything from shoes to fish, all available through reservation. A foodie heaven, the basement has dainty Japanese bento boxes as well as French pastries and macaroons. When shopping for clothes you can take a break from the international luxury brands on stock to try on some kimonos. Tokyo’s shopping is also surprisingly affordable, according to the Globe Shopper City Index, with Asia’s fourth-cheapest shopping, and the cheapest average price for a Canon EOS 600D body.
Getting around: 6 Value: 6 Variety: 10 Experience: 9 Total: 31
London prices can destroy your will to live. And that’s just the cab fare to get to the shopping areas. But get over the sticker shock and you’ll probably agree with its Globe Shopper Index ranking as top European shopping city and its Donegar Group nod as the world’s top fashion shopping destination. The Globe Shopper City Index notes that London outstrips all the other European cities in both the quantity of shops and availability of international and local brands. London shopping at its best is bold, eclectic and international. Case in point: department store Liberty. Liberty may have a Tudor-style exterior and fireplaces, but its stock is contemporary and cool, encompassing in-house designer stationary, clever kitchen accessories to upstage your neighbors and clothes from a select pool of local and international designers. Of course, you might end up with a £245 (US$390) Mathieu Challières Mini Volière Bird Cage Table Lamp, but that’s the black magic of a wonderful shop — it inspires you to buy things you never knew existed.
4. Kuala Lumpur
Getting around: 6 Value: 10 Variety: 8 Experience: 6 Total: 30
Sometimes bigger really is better. That’s the prevailing shopper’s ethic in Kuala Lumpur, anyway. Three of the world’s 10 largest malls are in KL, including 1 Utama, the world’s fourth-largest mall with more than 650 shops, Asia’s largest indoor rock climbing facility, massive rooftop garden with 500 species of exotic plants and indoor rainforest with koi ponds and freshwater aquarium. KL’s impressive score comes from its winning combination of high quality shopping, affordable prices and reliable sales, which can stretch for several months. This year’s Year-End-Sale, from November 10 to January 1, is just one doozy of an example.
Getting around: 6 Value: 6 Variety: 8 Experience: 9 Total: 29
The best shops in Paris don’t sell clothes. They sell lifestyles. Whimsical concept shop Merci stocks a selection of designer goods that fall under the category of utterly useless but absolutely desirable, such as art deco Bakelite switches. It’s housed in an airy and vaguely bucolic space that includes a secondhand bookshop, florist and café. In addition to the Annick Goutal scent line, Merci stocks apparel by Stella McCartney and Yves St Laurent, often with deep discounts. Colette offers reduced prices on designer goods. Then again, if you’re like us, whatever you save on a Fendi dress might be spent on stylin’ necessities like a bottle of Bling H2O, which comes in a frosted glass bottle decorated with Swarovski crystals. It’s available for about US$50 at the downstairs “water bar,” which has more than 70 brands of bottled water. And, of course, there’s the holy trinity of Parisian department stores: Le Bon Marché dates to the 1850s. It’s famed for a monster section of gourmet food (5,000 choices strong).