Shopping abroad this summer? Unfortunately, the dollar doesn’t buy as much as it used to in the world’s shopping capitals, but there are still buck-saving bargains to be had in London, Paris, Milan and Hong Kong.
Despite the dollar’s diminished value, goods usually cost less where they’re made. In Europe, best buys include perfumes, woolens, leather goods, clothing, crystal and china. In the Orient, look for ready-to-wear and made-to-order clothing, jewelry, curios, gadgets and gift items.
Check stores and learn prices at home so you’ll know how much you’re saving overseas. Price perfumes, liquor, silk scarfs, ties, jewelry, pens and other items in airport duty-free and airline in-flight shops.
If these prices are lower than overseas, you can buy on your way home. Duty-frees and in-flights, however, have limited supplies and stock varies.
In Europe, tax rebates (averaging 12% to 18%, depending upon type of merchandise) offer substantial savings for foreign shoppers who are buying for export. Rebate policies differ from country to country, shop to shop.
All require minimum purchases, but some allow rebates only on big-ticket items. Others allow accumulation of smaller purchases to meet the minimum.
Some charge processing fees, some give rebates on the spot, others have forms to be stamped by customs when you leave the country and then mailed back to the store for a rebate check.
Season for Sales
In Europe, July sales offer bargains. Follow residents to discount shops and shopping streets. Discount shops change stock frequently and have limited quantities, so if you see something you like, buy it immediately.
London’s bargains in beautiful cashmeres, Shetlands and woolen sweaters in an astonishing array of colors and styles are available at Westaway & Westaway (65 and 92-93 Great Russell St.). Despite a recent price-raising run on cashmere, you can get fine double-ply sweaters there for about $95.
Of all English labels, Laura Ashley (256-258 Regent St. and other locations) has a noticeable difference in London versus U.S. prices, with regular tags on clothes and home furnishings about 15% to 20% less. Many sales bins offer everything from stockings to rolls of wallpaper ($5 and up) at ridiculously low prices.
Other chic English and continental labels are discounted up to 40% at the Constant Sale Shop (54 Fulham Road) where Krizia, Katherine Hamnett, Valentino, Comme des Garcons, Armani and other designers sell end-of-season merchandise.
The Reject China Shop (134 Regent St.) sells Aynsley, Royal Worcester, Portmeirion and other English china as well as French, German and Japanese tableware, at about 20% to 40% less than U.S. prices, and offer tax rebates on purchases of $65 or more.
Filofax agendas, with forms to facilitate record-keeping of every sort, are sold for about $100 (about one-third the U.S. price) at Paperchase (167 Fulham Road) and other London stationery stores, and at Harrods (Knightsbridge).
Harrods’ July sales aren’t as spectacular as its January sales, but prices are still good. At other times, merchandise is full price. Harrods’ advantages include inexpensive signature items (gift-wrapped teas and biscuits, pens, scarfs and teddy bears), time-saving one-stop shopping and tax rebates on cumulative value of small purchases acquired during one or several days.
Marks & Spencer, the lower-middle-priced department store chain with branches throughout London, has good and inexpensive underwear and socks.
Shopping in Paris
Paris’ magnificent department stores, Galleries Lafayette (40 Boulevard Haussmann) and Au Printemps (64 Boulevard Haussmann) offer one-stop shopping for French designer goods, perfumes, china, crystal and more.
Both provide aides to guide foreigners through departments and facilitate on-the-spot tax rebates for customers who have bought the minimum required amount, either with one expensive item or several lesser purchases.
If department stores prove too pricey, Paris has discount shops. About a dozen excellent crystal and china discounters, offering Havilland, Bernardaud and Villery & Boch porcelain patterns, plus Baccarat, Saint-Louis and Daum crystal glasses and decorative pieces, are on Rue de Paradis. The shops sell individual pieces and/or sets, and will ship.
Look for ‘Stock’ Label
French designer clothes are discounted in shops designated “stock.” Styles may be from seasons past, but are usually top quality.
Rue d’Alesia’s string of well-stocked stores includes Dorothee Bis (No. 74), MicMac (No. 80), Daniel Hechter (No. 92), Cacharel (No. 114), Lasserre (No. 122) and others, with women’s, men’s and children’s styles.
Designer Jean-Louis Scherrer’s discount shop is at 29 Avenue Ledru-Rollin and Nina Ricci’s sales items are in the basement of her haute couture salon (39 Avenue Montaigne). C. Mendes (65 Rue Montmartre) has discounted Saint-Laurent fashions. Many boutiques at nearby Forum des Halles, Paris’ large shopping center, have markdowns on end-of-line styles by first- and second-string designers.
Bally (1 Rue du Louvre) sells its own label of women’s, men’s and children’s footwear at discounted prices. Women’s shoes are about $90 and up.
For perfumes, try Catherine (6 Rue de Castiglione), a duty-free shop offering 108 scents for men and women from 49 perfume makers (Dior, Carven, Rochas, YSL, Chanel and others), as well as assorted cosmetics, scarf and ties for up to 40% off list prices. Other duty-frees have similar discounts, but more limited stock.
The City of Discounts
In Italy, Milan is the city for discount shoppers. Mila Schon Negozio (Piazza Umanitaria 2) has classic Schon from seasons past marked down 50% or more. Linen and cotton sweaters sell for $40, silk blouses for about $120, silk scarfs are $5 and up.
At Laura Bagiotti (Via Borgospesso 19), ask to see sale items in the back room for some terrific buys of moda alta styles. Il Salvagente (Via Fratelli Bronzetti 16) has Krizia, Ferre, Versace, Trussardi and other designer clothes at discounted prices, crammed in among other labels.
Beware, however, because not all the clothes are new and some are slightly damaged. Vesti Stock Uno (Viali Romagna 19) and Due (Via Ramazzini) are sister discount shops near each other, offering men’s, women’s and children’s styles by designers including Versace, Kansai, Montana, Moschino and others.
Gucci Liquidazioni (Via Corridoni 13), the Gucci outlet, has a selection of double G leather goods at discounted prices, including handbags (from $100), silk scarfs (from $50) and neckties (from $25), wallets, key cases and other small leather goods, and some clothing including leather skirts and cashmere sweaters (from $215). Gucci offers an 18% tax rebate on purchases exceeding 800,000 lire (about $630 U.S.).
Parabiago, Milan’s industrial suburb, has the Fratelli Rossetti Factory (Via Cantu 24) for stunning shoes (men’s styles from $45 and women’s from $60), and Stefano Serapian (Via Jomelli 35-37) for leather handbags (from $30) and rubberized carry bags (from $40).
Bargains in the Orient
In the Orient, famous designer merchandise manufactured in Hong Kong is sold at bargain prices in shops in that city. Discounters along Granville Road and in Stanley Market have French and Italian designer label silk dresses and ensembles for $60 and up, suede slacks ($45 and up), leather jackets ($85 and up) and a wide range of sports and casual ensembles ($20 and up).
Factory outlets in the Kaiser Estates (Man Yue Street, Hunghom, Kowloon) include Four Seasons with pretty paisley silk dresses ($100 and up) and Camberley Enterprises with Anne Klein II silk blouses for $50 and wool sweater dresses for $60.
Sam’s (Burlington Arcade, Nathan Road, Kowloon) is a reliable source for clothes made-to-measure from a wide selection of fabrics. Have old clothes copied or choose styles from fashion magazines (from about $280 a suit). With three fittings, suits are completed in four days.
Sunny Tsui Jewelry (Golden Mile Holiday Inn, Nathan Road, Kowloon) has fabulous jade, pearls, lapis, as well as diamonds, colored gems and semi-precious stones sold loose or set beautifully into 14k or 18k gold rings, pendants, necklaces. Prices and service are excellent.
China Products Co. (488-500 Hennessy Road, Hong Kong) stocks trinkets and knickknacks including cloisonne bracelets (from $10) and other pieces of jewelry and vases (from $15), embroidered silk blouses (from $40), pillow covers and linen tablecloths (from $25), dolls and toys.
Chung Wing and Wing Shing Curios (167-169 Hollywood Road, Hong Kong) has antique and reproduction Oriental knickknacks, including jewelry boxes ($20 and up), cloisonne and porcelain vases ($17 and up), jade statuettes and bowls.
Prices quoted in this article reflect currency exchange rates at the time of writing.