A city famous for its sartorial elegance and Bohemian chic, New York is a shopper’s paradise, hawking everything from the very latest designer fashions to flea market bargains in addition to foods and goods from every corner of the globe. Clothing is not taxed in New York and the bargains have got even better of late, as the US recession has led to widespread discounting on everything from electrical goods to designer fashion. (Read more on New York Cost of Living.)
The smartest shops are located on Madison Avenue, where most top designers have flagship stores. Nearby, Fifth Avenue is a magnet for the label conscious and well heeled. Standing at one of the most famous corners in Manhattan, Tiffany & Co, 727 Fifth Avenue, is an icon of the American Dream. Famous department stores include Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Herald Square, Bloomingdales, 1000 Third Avenue, at 59th Street, and Barney’s New York, 660 Madison Avenue, at 61st Street, which is the trendiest of this retail crop. Both Macy’s and Bloomingdales now offer free ‘personal shoppers’ on request, to help navigate their huge ranges. The famous Ladies’ Mile, which, one hundred years ago, was the epicenter of uptown fashion, with department stores stretching from 14th Street for a mile along Sixth Avenue, is now a major discount centre. However, the spectacular Victorian buildings have been restored and stores such as Bed Bath and Beyond, Old Navy Clothing Co, Barnes & Noble and Filene’s Basement have spearheaded a revival of the historic shopping strip.
SoHo is the most European of New York’s neighbourhoods and its shops resemble those at Covent Garden, with high-end clothing outlets and shoe stores, make-up and beauty salons, art galleries and antiques shops, and modern furniture showrooms. The EastVillage and the Lower East Side harbour street fashion and cutting-edge young designers, with vintage shops, music stores intermingling with designer boutiques and eclectic outlets. Discount shops selling authentic American goods, such as Levi’s, are located throughout the city, particularly along Broadway, between Houston Street and 14th Street.
There are numerous markets to appeal to bargain hunters. The Annex Flea Market, known as the 26th Street Flea Market, on Sixth Avenue, made famous by Andy Warhol, is open on Saturday and Sunday from dawn to dusk. The best bargains are vintage clothing and fine linens. Many ‘green markets’, selling locally grown produce, freshly caught fish, desserts and breads, are located around the city, the most central of which is at Union Square, opening on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 0800–1800.
Shopping hours depend on the neighbourhood. Business areas, such as Wall Street, open as early as 0800, while shops in areas such as SoHo and EastVillage open late at 1100. Many stay open until at least 1900. Department stores are open 1000–1800 and 1200–1700 Sunday.
In New York, everything but life’s most basic necessities is taxable and the sales tax of 8.5% on all consumer goods – apart from clothes under US$110 – is one of the highest in the country. Visitors to New York are unable to claim a tax refund for goods purchased..