Hello readers! Sorry for the radio silence and lack of posts, I am still alive! I completely under estimated how long this post would take me to write, so apologies! It’s a long ‘un, so grab yourself a cup of tea, get comfy and enjoy!
NYC is one of the best shopping destinations in the world. The shopping options in this magnificent city are endless! From high-end department stores on 5th Avenue, to the wonderfully unique, independent ones on the Lower East Side – NYC caters for every possible need and taste.
With the vast selection of shops available, it would be quite easy to be daunted by the selection, so it’s probably a good idea to think of Manhattan in terms of the different neighbourhoods. To make it easier, I’ve collated my rundown on some of New York’s shopping scenes, highlighting a few different stores worthy of a mention.
Lower Manhattan & the Financial District
The Queen of all discount department stores, Century 21, can be found across from the World Trade Center site. New stock arrives continually, together with hoards of customers. However, if you can bear to sort through the messy racks and shelves, and battle elbow-to-elbow with other customers, then this place is worth a visit, and you’ll certainly pick-up a bargain! To get the best bargains and avoid the crowds, get there first thing on a weekday morning. The Financial District has seen a rejuvenation in terms of shopping in recent years and is now home to Tiffany & Co., True Religion Brand Jeans, Thomas Pink, Tumi, Hermès, Ann Taylor Loft, to name but a few, but probably my favourite, the flagship Duane Reade on Wall Street! Plus if you want a more relaxed (read: less pushy) environment to stock-up on skin care and make-up, pop into Sephora on 150 Broadway.
If high-end shopping is the only thing on your agenda, then give Chinatown a skip. Nontheless, if your tastes are 5th & Madison Avenues, but your wallet isn’t, then definitely head here. There is a mind-boggling collection of knock-off handbags, sunglasses, shoes, watches and fragrances. The quality might be doubtful, but it’s great fun browsing and bargaining. The fish and herbal markets along Elizabeth, Canal, Mulberry and Mott streets are fun for their commotion and unusual wares.
If you’re looking for colourful Chinatown souvenirs then pop into Ting’s Gift Shop, one of the older businesses in Chinatown, where you’ll find Chinese lanterns and the alike.
Tea connoisseurs should head to Ten Ren Tea & Genseng, on Mott Street, where you can browse the vast selection of teas. And no visit to Chinatown would be complete without wandering the aisles of the Pearl River Mart on Broadway.
The Lower East Side
The Lower East Side is the epitome of boho, although I’m sure many locals would dispute this with the gentrification that has taken place. So far, the LES has remained pretty immune to chain stores and franchises. Whilst bargains are still to be found on Canal, Delancey, Orchard and Essex, the LES is attracting upscale stores that specialise in cutting-edge fashions, funky retro furnishings and other kooky items. Reed Space on Orchard is an up-to-the-minute lifestyle boutique, housing wares from local and international designers. Odin on E. 11th Street is a men’s boutique stocking up to the minute cutting-edge brands. And foodies should head to Essex Street Market, where you will find 15,000 square feet of food purveyors!
SoHo is now one of the uber-fashionable places to shop. Over the past few decades SoHo has gone from undiscovered to uber-fashionable. I love wandering around the cobbled streets of SoHo – it’s one of the first neighbourhoods I visit when I get to NYC. The shopping area of SoHo runs from Broadway, west to 6th Avenue, and from Houston Street, south to Canal Street. The strip along Broadway is where you’ll find the big brand names: Hollister (remember your ear plugs and torches!), Old Navy (great for tees, fleeces & flip flops), Victoria’s Secret, Pink by Victoria’s Secret, Bliss Spa, Levi’s, Club Monaco (I love this store!), White House, Black Market, the divine Dean & Deluca (perfect for a coffee refuel), Crate & Barrel, Topshop, Aldo, Uniqlo, Desigual, H&M, Banana Republic, Mango, Hugo Boss, Armani AX Exchange and the downtown branch of Bloomingdales, which is slightly edgier than it’s uptown sibling.
Off the main drag, you’ll find the real buzz of SoHo and designer stores a plenty! Prada’s gorgeous flagship store is on the corner of Broadway and Prince. And if you stroll up and down Spring, Mercer, Bleecker, Greene, Wooster and West Broadway, you’ll find many, many others. I can spend hours and hours (and probably hundreds and hundreds of Dollars) in fabulous SoHo.
Chelsea/Meatpacking District/West Village/Greenwich Village
These three neighbourhoods have gone from zero to hero in no time at all. From the cult mini-department store Jeffrey, home to the likes of YSL, Prada, Lanvin, Bottega Veneta, Dries Van Noten, Marni, and many more; to Stella McCartney, Christian Louboutin, DVF and Alexander McQueen, these neighbourhoods scream cool. For the geek in you, pay a visit to Apple’s newest Manhattan store on West 14th Street.
Foodies should head along Bleecker, west of 6th Avenue, to explore the tantalising food shops (Murray’s Cheese is especially worth a visit). Also not to be missed is Chelsea Market, a divine gourmet food market.
Probably my favourite store in this neighbourhood is Scoop – full of up-to-the-minute fashions from the likes of Anya Hindmarch and Alice Temperley.
Union Square/the Flatiron District
My must-have body lotion is Creme de Corps from Kiehls, so being able to peruse its flagship store on 3rd Avenue to stock-up and maybe find some other amazing products is a real joy! If you haven’t tried Creme de Corps, then I can highly recommend it and the 1 liter pump bottle, is basically Dollar for Pound price!
I love hanging-out in Union Square – it’s very near where I go for acupuncture when I’m in the City, so I’ve whiled away many an hour here before meeting The Domestic Prince from work. I think my favourite store in this area has to be Wholefoods. I’m not sure if it’s because this kind of store just doesn’t exist in India, so I gorge myself on it when I can, so to speak, or if it’s just an amazing food emporium that I would be just as drawn to, were I living somewhere else. Either way it is food porn heaven! I am sure I get funny looks when I’m practically stroking the jewel like cherry toms, or squealing over real lemons!
Also to be found on the Square is Forever 21, DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse), Sephora, Barnes & Noble, and for fitness fanatics, the fantastic Lululemon Athletica.
Central to shopping in Union Square is the four times a week Greenmarket, the biggest farmers’ market in the City and one of the best places to buy fresh local groceries. In November and December, the Square is also host to the Holiday Market, a pop-up mall filled with handcrafted art, jewellery, gifts, clothes, and lots of other possible pressies!
From Union Square, walk down E. 15th Street to the lower-end of 5th Avenue, where you’ll find J Crew, Banana Republic, Aldo, Zara, Kenneth Cole, Victoria’s Secret, GAP and Kate Spade amongst others. If you’re looking for smaller, independent stores, meander up and down the cross streets, as 5th Avenue is mainly home to big-brand names.
Herald Square & the Garment District
Herald Square – where 34th Street, 6th Avenue, and Broadway meet – is all about Macy’s, the self-proclaimed “biggest department store in the world.” It is vast and takes up a whole block. Inside the iconic building, you can find everything from clothing to home improvements to makeup and more.
Over on 7th Avenue is the Garment District, where you’ll often find sites for sample sales. Check out Time Out for listings.
Times Square & the Theatre District
Shopping in Times Square is much better than it used to be. With fewer souvenir stores (don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty to be found) and more mainstream brands, Times Square has become a more attractive place to shop, especially if you have the younger generation with you, as Times Square is home to the flagship stores of Toys “R” Us and The Disney Store. Also to be found in this neighbourhood are electronics stores – all supposedly going out of business and have been on my every visit. If you’re after electronics, I’d urge you to go to an electronic superstore, such as J&R or B&H. You’re much more likely to find a bargain here.
Fifth Avenue & surrounding area
Probably the most famous shopping district is in the heart of Manhattan, spanning from the upper 40s on 5th Avenue to 59th Street, and across 57th Street to Madison Avenue. 5th Avenue is home to many famous stores: Tiffany & Co., the huge Louis Vuitton flagship at the corner of 57th Street and 5th Avenue, Gucci, Versace, H Stern, Harry Winston, Fendi, Prada, Armani, Escada, Cartier, De Beers, to name but a few. And if a visit to these stores doesn’t quell your shopping desire, then why not pop into one (or all?) of three of the grand-dames department stores that can be found along 5th Avenue: Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel or Saks Fifth Avenue.
You won’t only find the designer stores along 5th, but quite a few mainstream retailers as well: Banana Republic, GAP, Gant, Diesel, Juicy Couture, Zara, Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, H&M, Uniqlo, Cole Haan, Ann Taylor and many, many more.
West 47th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues is home to the famous Diamond District. The Diamond District is the world’s largest shopping district for all sizes and shapes of diamonds and fine jewelry at tremendous prices and value (I can personally attest to this!). With over 2,600 independent stores in the district, you are bound to find the perfect gem, at the perfect price.
At the top end of 5th Avenue you can find FAO Schwartz, the feature of many NYC set movies and one of New York’s most popular tourist destinations. If you have little ones with you, I doubt you’ll be able to avoid a visit here!
Also to be found at the top end of 5th Avenue, near FAO Schwartz, is Apple’s magnificent flagship subterranean NYC store. Worth a visit, if only to check your email!
Upper East Side
Madison Avenue from 57th to 80th streets boasts the most expensive retail real estate in the world. If you’re thinking of hitting this shopping district, bring lots of plastic! This super deluxe strip – especially in the high 60s – is home to some of the most luxurious designer boutiques. Upper East Sider dwellers head to the Mecca that is Barneys for their shopping fix. It is well-known for being the youngest – and arguably, the coolest – of New York’s department stores. If you’re looking for fresh, young brands like Alexander Wang, Acne and the alike, then a visit to Barneys is a must.
When in this neck of the woods, don’t miss out popping into the stunning Ralph Lauren store, which is housed in a beautiful, renovated mansion at 72nd Street.
For any serious shopper, no visit to NYC would be complete without a visit to Bloomingdale’s located on 3rd Avenue between 59th and 60th. Known for their huge inventory of the latest fashions, as well as the famous “little brown bag”, Bloomingdale’s is every shopper’s dream and has something for everyone. If you’re looking to bag an haute couture outfit, then head elsewhere, as Bloomie’s main stay is brands like UGG, Michael Kors, BCBG, Tory Burch, Juicy Couture, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Milly, designer jeans, diffusion lines etc. etc.
Upper West Side
Situated just off the southwest corner of Central Park is The Shops at Columbus Circle mall, in the Time Warner Center. As somebody who loves food and cooking, a visit to Columbus Circle is pure heaven on earth for me. Not only does it house a massive 59,000 square-foot Whole Foods, but it is also home to the brilliant Williams-Sonoma. If you are a home cook, then you must pay a visit to Williams-Sonoma; think Divertimenti but on a bigger, and dare I say it, better scale!
What to buy in NYC:
- Apple products. If you’re lusting after the newest Apple gadget, then consider buying it in the US, as prices are typically 10 to 15% cheaper than the UK from the Apple store. Shop around though, as Apple are not always the cheapest place, B&H on 9th & 34th Street, has quite often been cheaper for us.
- US brand make-up & skin care. e.g. Laura Mercier, Bobbi Brown, Clinique, MAC, Estee Lauder, Bliss, Essie, OPI etc. etc.
- Diamonds! If you’re in the market for a sparkler then head for the diamond district (avoid Tiffany like the plague for diamonds!). As the largest consumer market for diamonds, the U.S. has great bargaining power. Over 90% of all diamonds going into the U.S. go through New York. Don’t be scared to negotiate and know what you’re looking for in terms of shape, size and quality before stepping inside. If you need a recommendation on a fabulous diamond merchant, then please email me.
- A Kindle. Not as big a price difference as when they were first launched, but still cheaper to buy in the US.
- Clothes & Shoes: the likes of Polo Ralph Lauren, J Crew, The Gap, Banana Republic, Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, Uggs, J Brand, 7 for all mankind, Citizens of Humanity, Paige – basically any US brand is typically considerably cheaper than the UK.
- Sports wear: Nike, Reebok, North Face, golf wear & equipment etc.
- Luxury watches: We were looking at some watches for The Domestic Prince and even with taxes, they were coming out cheaper than the UK, plus you can negotiate as well.
- Tiffany: Whilst I said not to buy diamonds from Tiffany, if you have your heart set on a little blue box, NYC is the place to get it. Whilst their diamonds are considerably more expensive than the ones in the diamond district, they are cheaper than the UK, and the same goes for pretty much all of their collections.
- Victoria Secrets & PINK: we might not have those Angel bodies, but we can at least pretend by buying our underwear and pjs here!
- Henri Bendel: for any accessory – this store is accessory heaven!
- Papyrus & Kate’s Paperie: I’m slightly obsessed with stationery, so these two stores are always must visits for me.
- J Crew: to stock up on cashmere, cotton sweaters and shorts.
- Banana Republic: for the best trousers (cropped and regular length) I’ve ever found.
What not to buy:
- Generally, European brands (unless there’s a sale on) – they’re typically either the same price, or more expensive in the US than on home turf – think Reiss, French Connection, Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin, Zara, Desigual, Mango etc. etc.
- Electrical appliances that have 110v.
My must visits & buys:
- Wholefoods – a visit to NYC is not the same without me spending at least a couple of hours in this amazing store. I have two favourite stores: the one at Columbus Circle, perfect for picking-up items for a picnic in Central Park, and the one on Bowery.
- Dean & Deluca – again, I don’t feel my trip is complete if I haven’t had a tomato and cheddar cheese soup and stocked up on truffle oil.
- Williams Sonoma – as somebody who loves to cook, this is my idea of HEAVEN! With every conceivable gadget known to man, together with some wonderful ingredients, I couldn’t imagine going to NYC without a visit here.
- The beauty halls of Bloomingdales and Saks to stock-up on make-up & skin care. Whilst I adore the beauty halls in Harrods and Selfridges, especially since their recent makeovers, I find it hard to justify buying a lot of my make-up and skin care when I’m there, knowing how much cheaper it all is in NYC. My must buys are anything from Laura Mercier, Kiehls and Bliss.
- Lululemon: for the best workout gear.
- Duane Reade: UK readers, think Boots, but WAY better. I stock-up here on everything from deodorant to shower gel, to massive bottles of ibuprofen, you name it, I pretty much scoop it all up! But the one item I always buy here is Visine eye drops. They are the best eye drops I’ve ever used.
Domestic Princess tips:
- Remember that the prices you see on the sales tag do not include sales tax.
- Do your research before you go, and check out the prices for anything you’re hoping to purchase in your home country to make sure you’re getting the best value.
- Foreign visitors to Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s should visit the Customer Services desk in each store, show your passport and you’ll be given a 10% discount card to use that day.
- If you’re not pressed for time and are happy to venture out of town, then definitely pay a visit to Woodbury Common Premium Outlets. With over 200 outlets you’re sure to bag yourself a bargain!
NYers, do you have any shopping must-buys, where to go, or tips you can share? If so, please pop them in the comment section below.
With much love
The Domestic Princess
P.S. there won’t be any posts until next Monday, as The Domestic Prince is off on his holibobs this week, so we’ll be spending some quality time together. But do not fear, I’ll be back with all things Christmassy next Monday!