A European's Guide to Shopping in the USA

July 15, 2019

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The USA is shopping paradise for many of us. Huge stores, wide spaces, perfect decor… Americans sure know how to lure you in. Even window shopping is a real pleasure. I still remember how these stores amazed me the first time I was in the US 10 years ago. I was coming from a small city back then and they literally made my jaw drop. 

For those who may be headed to the US, I've created a complete guide to shopping in the USA so when you get there, you can shop like a pro.

American brands are cheaper, European ones are not.
Tech items, which tend to be rather pricey, are much cheaper in the US. If you need a new Apple gadget, you want a Roomba vacuum or a new lens for your camera, put some money aside and wait for your next US trip, you will save a lot of money.

The same goes for retail and skincare products, brands like Clinique or Abercrombie are way cheaper in America.
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One thing to always have in mind is that the price tag does not include the sales tax which varies from one state to another. For example, in NYC most purchases are subject to an 8.875% sales tax. However, some items are excluded from the sales tax such as clothing and shoes under $110 or unprepared foods for instance.
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Every time I'm in the US, I pop by all of the following.
  • Anthropologie: I'd say this is my favorite one. The loveliest apparel, skincare and homeware all in one place. I love the mixture of cultures and styles of their products. It's like someone with impeccable taste finds the best products around the world and puts them all in one place.
  • Abercrombie & Fitch: probably the most famous American clothing brand among young Europeans. They have rebranded in the last few years and have left a little bit aside the "perfect" American poster boy image. Due to controversy in the past, they have become more inclusive and now offer sizes for different body types.
  • J.Crew: clothes and accessories to curate the perfect preppy closet.
  • Free People: boho-chic style for the modern hippy.
  • Kate Spade: this one is a bit more high end. Here you can find ultra feminine colorful clothes and the most fun accessories. 
  • All American designers Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren
  • WilliamsSonoma: if you like cooking like me, you can't miss this place. Here you can find every single item for your kitchen you can think of.
  • PotteryBarn: go here for beautiful homeware and furniture. The only bad thing about this place is that many of their items won't fit in your suitcase... 

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The most popular malls and department stores in the US are the following:

You can also find many outlet malls throughout the country that are worth checking out because they offer designer clothes at affordable prices.

According to a survey these are the most popular stores among Americans:

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If you are lucky enough to be in the US around these dates, you can save even more money on your shopping.
  • President’s Day Sale: February
  • Memorial Day Weekend Sale: May
  • July 4th Summer Sale
  • Back-to-school/Fall Preview Sale: end of July – beginning of August 1
  • Labor day Weekend Sale: September
  • Columbus Day Weekend Sale: October
  • Thanksgiving Eve: November
  • Black Friday: November
  • After Thanksgiving Weekend Sale featuring Midnight Madness: November
  • Cyber Monday (online): December
  • New Year’s Eve Sales: December
  • New Year’s Day Sales: January

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I like to check out the online stores of my favorite shops every now and then and I often feel tempted to order something. However, you shouldn’t consider shopping from Europe, online shopping on US sites is not worth it. Even though all sites offer international shipping, the taxes and shipping costs will add up almost as much as the price of the items you are buying.

Do you shop when you are abroad? What are your favorite brands?

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  1. Very interesting for an American reading the perceptions of others. I would say you are spot on for at the least the stuff I know about. Old Navy is my place of choice for tshirts (catch great shirts with nice designs on sale for $5). Target is a great place as well.
    Have a great week!!

  2. I live in the U.S. so it was interesting to hear a different perspective on shopping here. You chose some high-end stores!
    My post features photos from Mount Rainier Natl Park.

  3. Such an informative post! For those arriving in NYC, I'm sure it helps take some of the guesswork out of it!

    I enjoyed your post at 'My Corner of the World' so much this week!

    My Corner of the World

  4. As an American, I think you got most of my favorite stores. Maybe you missed Walmart? White House Black Market is another good one! I also highly recommend checking out some of the smaller, local stores while in the US. It's better for the economy of smaller towns and you can find some really unique goods. You'd be surprised at how different stores are across the US. There are chains in California that we don't have in the southeast where I live!

    Also, as an American, I would love to see a post on what stores an American shopping abroad should check out! It would be especially great if they have an online presence, but, once again, I think local stores are better for the economy and perhaps the places I should spend my money when abroad. (It's just so hard to get the European goods I love when I'm back in the states!)

  5. Yes, you are right about Walmart. Thanks for reminding me!
    I love local stores as well, much more than big chains actually but since I was doing a general US post I thought those would be easier to find throughout the States.

    I do have a post on what to buy in Spain and another one about Spanish fashion brands if you want to check them out :)

  6. Thanks! So glad you like it. And thanks for hosting as well :)

  7. Thanks! It's very interesting to see what an American thinks of the guide :)

  8. Thanks, Sandra! Glad you found it interesting

  9. Your post is spot on. Loving your blog. Blessings.


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