As with everything in Vegas, appearances can be deceptive. It’s not particularly known as a shopping destination – people rarely fly over here to test their wallets in the same way they flock to New York City or Chicago. And, at first glance, the Strip looks all casinos, no shops.
But in actual fact, Vegas makes a fantastic shopping destination. For a start, everything is close together - you can cover the main shopping area on foot, rather than worry about hauling your bags around a subway system. And with room rates significantly lower than most other US cities, it’s an extremely attractive shopping destination.
Rather like Dubai, instead of having shopping districts lined with boutiques, shopping in Vegas is pretty much all contained within the malls and the mini-malls inside some of the casinos. These are huge and, because they’re indoors, can be incredibly confusing – it took me six months to find my way around the Forum Shops at Caesars, and I still get lost every single time I venture into the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian. Those two can take about half an hour to walk around, too, so if you’re looking for a specific store, rather than having a wander, it’s essential to keep checking the maps and asking for information.
Within the malls, you’ll find all the big brands that make that trip to America look so enticing – from designer labels, through wardrobe staples that are either unavailable or considerably more expensive in the UK, to the cheap US equivalent of Primark.
And they’re not just about shopping either. All the malls have plenty of bars and restaurants, and there are even theatres and nightclubs stashed away in them too. There are plenty of places to sit, and most malls even provide “oxygen bars” (where you inhale oxygen to wake you up) and open-air massage centres for when things get tiring. The Miracle Mile mall even has a tooth-whitening station, in case you fancy a quick bleach on the way to dinner! Needless to say, everything is air conditioned, which makes them a haven during the summer.
In fact, the only thing Vegas lacks is a thriving independent shop community – even if you leave the Strip, you’ll find mostly chains outside the city centre. There are a couple of independent gems, however – and luckily they’re tucked away within the central malls themselves.
You'll find everything you need to know here: Shopping in Las Vegas: a mall guide.
The other things you need to know
Most of the Vegas malls stay open seven days a week, round the clock – or at least until the wee hours - so that you can access the bars and restaurants. However, don’t expect to shop through the night – most shops open at 10am and close at 10pm or 11pm on weekends.
If you’re driving, as in the rest of Vegas, free parking is plentiful. The Forum Shops and Miracle Mile even have a free valet service (though you’ll have to tip).
Service is good – too good, I often think. Salespeople work on commission and bonuses and even in the high street shops, you’ll be approached regularly, asked if you need a hand finding stuff, and have your selections taken out of your hands and into the changing room. You’ll often be asked for updates on how you’re doing once you’re in there – but it becomes less annoying with practice. Oh, and if you’re wondering why they’re so eager to tell you their name, it’s usually because when you come to the check-out, you’ll be asked who helped you – which garners them brownie points.
Prices are on a par with the rest of America: US clothing brands (and electronics) cost roughly in dollars what they’d be in pounds back home, so although the amount you’re saving depends on the exchange rate, you’ll still do pretty well.
You can get incredible discounts at end of season sales (this summer, the shops at Wynn were offering up to 80 percent off) and on special occasions such as holidays – it’s always worth asking at the till whether they have any special deals on. In addition, you’ll find some kind of sales rack – whether big or small - in most of the shops, all year round.
Another way to save money is to sign up for loyalty cards and mailing lists. Points add up quickly on loyalty cards, and joining a mailing list will often get you an instant discount. One more thing – most high street shops email and post coupons to the people on their mailing list, but I’ve found that they’ll often give you the discount at the tills if you ask nicely, whether or not you’re signed up for their programme. Trendy young-leaning shop Express (various locations, including Town Square and Forum Shops) is the best at doing this.