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 1-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.
Getting around: 4 Value: 7 Variety: 4 Experience: 6 Total: 21
Fact: South Korea has a serious addiction to shopping. The most serious in the world, in fact.
South Korea recorded more credit card transactions per person than any other country in 2011, and all merchants are required by law to accept credit cards no matter how low the price. Yes, that means the phrase “cash only, please” is technically illegal.
This translates to a capital city bursting with shops of a dizzying array of types and sizes, from LED-fish-scale-studded luxury department stores to towering all-nighter shopping malls to trendy street carts, which all reflect the ever-changing hottest item of the moment.
While foreign luxury goods tend to get a hefty mark-up (except at the airport, which boasts the first Louis Vuitton airport duty free store, as well as cheap prices for most foreign brands), local boutiques tend to be cheap and chic.
The city also has a good mix of the old and new, according to the Globe Shopper Index, which recommends the Seoul Folk Flea Market, Namdaemun Market and Gyeongdong Market for a shopping spree of more traditional goods.
Getting around: 5 Value: 5 Variety: 4 Experience: 8 Total: 22
Home to many of fashion’s biggest names such as Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and Versace, it’s little wonder this beautiful city is full of glamorous locals and shops that cater to them.
One of the most beautiful (if expensive) shopping experiences can be found at Quadrilatero della Moda or Quadrilatero d’Oro (‘rectangle of gold’), which many fashion insiders consider is the world’s most important fashion district.
The interwoven pedestrian streets are lined with jewelers, boutiques and lifestyle showrooms that make for great window shopping.
While the boutiques cater to the alligator-bag-and-black-card-toting crowd, luckily for bargain shoppers, yesterday’s styles are tossed aside so fast, outlets and sales racks are always full.
Il Salvagente (“the lifesaver”), Milan’s best known and longest established outlet, has three floors of goods discounted up to 60%, all organized by size and color.
No one back home needs to know it was bought at an outlet mall — Milan fashions are always months ahead of the trends elsewhere.
Getting around: 6 Value: 6 Variety: 4 Experience: 7 Total: 23
Madrid mostly gets our credit cards warm simply for being Madrid, though it’s worth noting that the city ranks third for best prices on general luxury items in the Globe Shopper Index.
But we can’t wow our friends with statistics (not our shopping friends, anyway), so what about the goods?
When searching for items unique to Madrid, we fell in love with Capas Seseña.
Established in 1901, the shop sells traditional wool and cotton velvet capes for men and women. The clientele includes Pierce Brosnan and Hillary Clinton. Picasso was reportedly buried in his cape from the store.
Casa de Diego stocks souvenir-worthy fans, mantillas, ornamental combs and even castanets. But what we really wanted to take home was one of its work-of-art statement umbrellas with engraved silver handle (€325/US$415).