New York City is one of the best places in the world to indulge in a spot of retail therapy - especially if you know just where to go to find the best deals
It’s likely you’ll know, or at least have heard all about, the upper section of Fifth Avenue in the Midtown area of Manhattan, where you’ll find all the best department stores and posh shops like Tiffany & Co. Even more exclusive is Madison Avenue, which is where the top American and European designers are based, such as Prada, Valentino and Versace. However, in these credit crunch times, it’s the discount stores that most fashion-conscious girls are really interested in, which is why I went to hunt out the best bargains in town.
There are plenty of up-and-coming designers and second-hand shops in the East Village. Try 7th Street for cheap, one-of-a-kind boutiques and Gabay’s Outlet (227 1st Avenue, between 13th and 14th Streets; 212 529 4036; www.gabaysoutlet.com) for discounts. It’s an East Village gem offering high-end designer fashion at seriously rock bottom prices, which is why its shoes and bags, which often include Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin and Tod’s, are coveted by the fashion pack.
The Flatiron District around 5th and 6th Avenues, from 14th to 23rd Streets, is full of wonderful old buildings that are brimming with one-of-a-kind shops and designer boutiques. Here you’ll also find the Burlington Coat Factory (707 6th Avenue at 23rd Street; 212 229 1300; www.burlingtoncoatfactory.com), a retail dream for the fashion-conscious and a proper New Yorker’s secret. It boasts continual designer overstock sale and, yes, it does carry more than just coats. There’s lots of casual womenswear and menswear, plus formal apparel from labels like Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Michael by Michael Kors and DKNY. There are some golden periods, such as the arrival of AG Jeans selling for around one-third of their original price, but you won’t know what’s in until you hit the rails.
SoHo has lots of boutiques selling avant-garde fashion and art, plus restaurants and art galleries, all housed in handsome cast-iron 1850s buildings. West Broadway is the main drag, but other important shop-lined streets include Spring, Prince, Green, Mercer and Wooster. Bargain-hunters should make a beeline for Daffy’s (462 Broadway, corner of Grand; 212 334 7444; www.daffys.com), where you’ll find an amazing range of designer stock from all over the world. There are four outlets of this famous discount store, and a hunt can result in a real gem for a rock bottom price tag.
Also take a trip to Pearl River Mart (477 Broadway, between Broome and Grand; 212 431 4770; www.pearlriver.com). It may have moved from its grungy location in Chinatown to a more fashion-conscious location in SoHo, but its Asian-inspired clothes and homewares are still bargains. Pick up paper lanterns, bamboo blinds, satin slippers, chopstick and rice bowl sets and mandarin-collared jackets for low, low prices.
Heading into NoLiTa (North of Little Italy), INA (21 Prince Street, between Thompson and Spring; 212 334 9048; www.inanyc.com) is another glorious place to pick up some choice pieces, as the stock is designer resale. It changes daily and offers discounts of 30–50 per cent per item, so you’ll be able to get your hands on plenty of model cast-offs, from Manolo shoes to Prada. It’s also the store where Patricia Field sourced clothes for the Sex and the City TV show.
An in-the-know discount store where New Yorkers bag a bargain is Century 21 (22 Cortlandt Street, between Church Street and Broadway, in the Financial District; 212 227 9092; www.c21stores.com), where you’ll find everything from adult and children's clothing to goods for the home. Top tip is to arrive early morning or mid-afternoon to avoid the lunchtime rush. Also check out Filene’s Basement (620 6th Avenue, between 18th and 19th Streets; 212 620 3100; www.filenesbasement.com), at Union Square. It’s part of the Boston-based bargain-basement company, which is one of the country’s oldest off-price chains, and cuts department store prices for brands like Gucci and Armani by 30-60 per cent. There’s also an outlet on Broadway at West 79th Street in the Upper West Side.
Last but not least is the whole Lower East Side, which is to bargains what Madison Avenue is to high-class acts. Many of the boutiques offer fashion by young designers – some of whom go on to open outlets in the posher areas – and famous-name gear at huge discounts. This whole area reflects the immigrant roots of New York and stands out as a bargain-hunter’s paradise, particularly the Sunday market. Orchard Street from Houston to Delancey Streets is well known for leather goods, luggage, designer clothes, belts, shoes and fabrics, while Ludlow Street is famous for trendy bars and boutiques filled with clothes by exciting new designers.
Where to stay
If you want to be in the heart of the action, a Midtown hotel is for you. The Kitano, a calming cherry-wood-decorated hotel with a strong Japanese influence, situated on Park Lane, is a perfect base for the emporiums on Fifth Avenue, and the Japanese design means you get a lovely big bathtub in every room. If you’re after something larger and glitzier, check in to the Jumeirah Essex House on the edge of Central Park, just a short stroll from many of the city’s major attractions. Behind its classic Art Deco lobby, the bedrooms include some of the comfiest beds you could wish to find and state-of-the-art room controls for everything from the lights to the music.