Tips for Bargain Shopping in London

Posted on January 12, 2013

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Bargain shopping in the cosmopolitan city of London? You bet – and it can be a fun “treasure hunting” adventure! Shopping is a “must do” for most travelers, whether it’s gifts, the cell phone charger left at home, or that unique item you can only buy where you are. Here are a few tips to shop like a local and stretch your budget.

Fashion seekers

Stylish Londoners

  • First things first – make a list. Figure out what you want to get and whom you want to buy for before you go to avoid impulse shopping. Staying focused on the list will help you leave the country with what you need and money in your pocket. Give yourself a budget for impulse shopping, outside the list, for the duration of the trip and keep track.
  • Browse clearance racks in department stores. You will find the top designer brands, good inventory to choose from, at discounted or clearance prices. Most have end of season sales in January/February and in summer. At Selfridges your shopping trip can include buying a pair of Miss Selfridges skinny jeans, designer handbag, scarf, gourmet foods, and even indulging in a glass of champagne.

Selfridges & Co. Official Address: 400 Oxford Street If using a map or GPS use this address: 40 Duke Street Tel: 0800 123 400

Shopping at Dusk

Selfridges at dusk

Shopping for fashion in London

Harvey Nichols in the heart of fashion district in London

Harvey Nichols 67 Brompton Rd Tel: 0845 604 1888

  • Markets. There are an overwhelming amount of quaint markets to choose from. Choosing one or two that fit your interests and your shopping list will help you reach your goal. One-of-a-kind, antique, and uniquely local items can be found at the various markets.

Portabello Road Market Open Saturdays with more than 2000 stalls, trendy, popular with celebrities, full of antiques, second-hand clothing, fresh vegetables. Portabello Road Tube: Notting Hill Gate (Central, Circle) Ladbroke Grove (Hammersmith & City) Bus: Notting Hill

  • Second-hand designer shops. If vintage is your thing then vintage you will find in London. Along the famous High Street and Marylebone areas are boutiques prime for treasure-hunting adventures.

    Hidden alleyways for eclectic shops and cafes

    St. Christopher Place, use the hidden alleyway to the left of H&M on Oxford Street

  • Pharmacies and grocery stores. Boots pharmacy is on just about every corner and even in Heathrow airport. Tesco, Sainsbury. or Mark & Spencer are good for grocery store gift finds like candies, cookies, and sauces. They have all the usual brands and some uniquely European products. Surprise your friends when you bring gifts of English pudding, tea, scone mix, or Cadbury chocolates. Find London gifts sections for cards, pencils, key chains, or even tissues with the English flag.
  • Primark. Featuring “affordable fashion.” Its location on Oxford Street puts this retailer at the heart of “fashion street” with prices within reach for any local or tourist. Find well-organized racks of handbags, wallets, scarfs, business attire, shoes, blouses, shorts, T-shirts, and sunglasses, with prices starting at just one pound. In fact, walking down Oxford Street you won’t need the advice to go check out Primark, apparently the latest shopping trend in this economy, as you’ll see Primark brown shopping bags in the hands of the majority of shoppers and wonder what it is all about.

    A trip to Primark is a must for budget fashion shoppers in London

    Primark, affordable fashion near Oxford Street

  • Discount designer-look stores. H&M, Zara, Next, and Top Shop, are all in the high-end shopping areas and have affordable fashionable clothes and accessories. Find a trench coat at H&M for 50 pounds, and find near the same trench coat at H&M in USA for about the same price, but much more fun to say you bought it in London.
  • Bookstores. Large chains or smaller regional and used bookstores will all have local finds from the best selection of publications and books covering the royal family, plus regional cookbooks, magazines, and travel guides. You might be lucky enough to happen upon a local author book-signing event.
  • Duty-free shops. At the airport or on the plane, duty-free shops offer good deals on the most popular gift items. Burberry Body perfume at Selfridges, Boots and Burberry stores throughout London cost 55 pounds for 60m size but for just 56 pounds at the duty-free shop you get an 85m size (priced October 2011)
  • Locals. When dining at the local pubs go ahead and strike up a conversation with the bartender or waiter, or even residents sitting next to you. Ask them where they go to shop for the best deals for things on your list. While you are there, go ahead and buy a T-shirt from that local British pub, supporting the local pub, and leave with a unique souvenir specific to your experience.

    In London's theater district

    A good place to have a pint or dinner before going to the theater

A few other tips for gathering souvenirs of your trip on a budget: Pick up matchbooks from restaurants and pubs if they have them. They are free. You don’t need to smoke to ask for matchbooks. The same goes for paper napkins or coasters with the pub’s or local beer name on it. To round out your photographs, pick up a few postcards of your favorite places to keep for yourself and your scrapbook. Save train tickets, receipts, take away menus, and tour brochures. Happy shopping!

All photos in this post taken by Lisa Bruhn.

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