Shops and Shopping Guide in the United States

The U.S.A. is a real haven for shopping fans. One of the favorite pastimes on the Americans as well as visiting tourists is shopping.


Things to consider before start shopping

Weight limitations

The maximal allowed luggage weight per person (including children above the age of two) on international flights is one piece of luggage with a weight of 23 kg , a carryon piece weighing 8-10 kg, and a computer case or purse (ascertain the terms in the ticket you purchased, the allowed weight may change).
A second piece of luggage can be sent on international flights for 70 – 100 Dollar (depending on the carrier). It is important to check the freight policy when buying the tickets because every year the terms change – and only to the worse! Remember that for overweight you will pay dearly. It is worthy to buy a small digital hand scale to weigh the luggage (available in travelers' shops).
In domestic flights that were purchased in a separate deal from the international flight, most of the companies require the payment of 25-30 dollar per first suitcase sent and 30 dollars or more for a second suitcase.
Until the year 2011, two suitcases per passenger were permitted on international flights and the sharp cutback caused substantial pain to the shopping fun of tourists in the U.S.A. Therefore, it is advisable to keep most of the shopping for the destinations after the last flight or purchase the domestic flights as part of the international flights transaction.


Tax policy

In the U.S.A. there is no tax refund on the merchandise you bought. In Canada, on the other hand, there is a local tax refund on shopping and parts of the services. Keep the receipts and at a local post office or at the airport obtain forms that must be completed, fill them in and send with your receipts once you are already outside of Canada. At the land border crossings between Canada and the U.S.A the tax refund in cash is done on the spot.

Remember that the prices on the price tag are before the local tax that varies from state to state, and can reach up to 10%. In the States of Oregon, New Hampshire and Delaware, there is no State Tax (therefore, it is worthwhile to do shopping there (whereas the highest tax rates are in Illinois, California and Arizona).


The location and timing of purchases

Don't leave all shopping for the end of the trip. Many concentrate all the shopping they wish to make for the end of the trip, and especially for New York City. Remember, New York City is not necessarily the least expensive place compared to other places in the U.S.A. Often it is exactly the opposite.


Return policy

The customers' service in the U.S.A is cordial and very efficient. The return policy is something that can be envied! You can return any product within 3 months of the purchase date, and if you retained the receipt, you will receive the money without any problem or comment. Without the receipt, you may receive a credit slip.



Shopping malls

The shopping malls are huge and luxurious. It is very pleasant to roam in them, but most shops and department stores in them belong to the relatively expensive chains. Therefore, for those who wish to hunt for bargains, it is necessary to search for specials, often offering real discounts of 50% or more. The problem is that most real bargains disappear already during the first days of the deal. If you look for quality and known brand names, and the price is not an issue, you will enjoy the shopping in those malls. In most of the malls, you will find branches of the well-known chains such as Sears, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom, and J.C. Penney. Of those chains Sears is the least expensive and Nordstrom the most expensive. A huge chain of shopping malls spread over 11 states is Westfield.
In every shopping mall there also movie theaters, restaurants and fast food stands children's entertainment attractions etc.



The inexpensive department stores

A number of huge shops chains exist that have branches all over the continent. In those shops you can buy everything: clothing, shoes, toys, electrical appliances, electronics, watches and jewelry, furniture, gardening equipment, sport equipment, food etc. Here one can ram around for long hours and find many deals. The largest chains of all are Wal-Mart, Kmart and Target. Those chains buy huge quantities of merchandise from the manufacturers at a discounted price, and offer even known brands as well as more popular merchandise.




Walmart is the largest chain in the world; their slogan is "We sell for less". They are known for their excellent customers' service.

Kmart used to be the second largest chain in the U.S.A but due to financial difficulties, it shrank a-bit in recent years.

Target offers higher quality products with a wide selection.
Certainly those chain also have special deals that you should not miss. The discounts are mainly in mid-summer and mid-winter. At the end of the summer, all of the offered merchandise is of the winter products and at the end of the winter all shops are loaded with swimwear and beach and recreation gadgets.




Members' Shopping Warehouses

The largest and best shopping warehouse is Costco. Each branch is a huge warehouse, a third of its products are food products, and especially in large packaging. Except for food the chain also sells electrical appliances and electronics, computers and software, office equipment, vehicle gadgets, toys, clothing and household goods. In order to shop at Costco – you need to have a membership card (annual membership fees are about $50) or join a person who is a member. It is worthwhile to buy there because the prices are the lowest and the merchandise is of high quality, including those of known such as Nike, Lee, Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. Brand names are also sold here (from all types: from food to films and shoes) made exclusively for them under the brand-name Kirkland, which are also of excellent quality. Costco has more than 270 shops around the continent with a sales volume of above 14 Billion Dollar. They have an internet website (which includes only a partial list of the products, usually the most expensive). A chain with similar characteristics, more common on the east side of the U.S. is Sam’s Club.


"Off Price" shops

This type of shops buy surpluses from factories and large department stores. One can find here at the same time the latest fashion sold in the luxury shops together with last season's merchandise. The main disadvantage is that while in the department stores all merchandise can be found in all sizes and styles; here the number of items of a certain type is limited. The biggest advantage is the price; saving of 20-60% from the regular price. Those shops sell mainly clothing and footwear, but also bags, toys and household appliances. A shopping fan with patience and time can look for hours in those shops and leave with quality clothing at a ridiculous price. Most of the cloth and footwear are by known and prestigious firms.


The largest chains in this field are:

T.J.Maxx which is the largest chain of this type with 574 branches around the U.S.A.
Ross (Dress for Less) has 275 shops around the U.S.A. and is the least expensive among the "Off Price" shops. The prices at Ross are cheaper by 30-50% from prices in regular shops. People above the age of 55 enjoy an additional discount of 10% on Tuesday's afternoons.
Marshall’s has 460 branches and it's slogan is "Known Brands for Less".
Burlington Coat Factory has 278 branches and it sells except coats (which is their main specialty) also fashion for the entire family, footwear, baby furniture and more. Their return policy is relatively rigid: there is no cash refund, only exchange and for a limited time.
A very different type of inexpensive shops are the ones selling every item for one Dollar. The two large chains specializing in this are - Family Dollar and Dollar tree. Here you will find everything; starting with food products, cleaning materials, household goods, writing materials, various souvenirs and toys.


Ross Dress for less


Factory Outlet Malls

More than 650 Factory Outlets exist around the U.S.A. Some are small with just a few dozens of shops, and some huge with hundreds of shops. Most are located on cities' outskirts or near popular resort areas. In the U.S. are two chains of Outlet Shops with a wide spread. The largest of them is: Premium Outlets which has tens of large and impressive centers, including in Orlando and in towns near Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.

Tanger Outlets is a successful chain most of whose branches are on the east coast of the U.S.A.

At the site you will be able to find information and connection to all the Outlet Centers in the U.S.A. including the names of the shops in each one, and updated information.

In each such center are many factory shops that sell the merchandise of the known prestigious firms such as Sony, London Fob, Ralph Lauren, Gap, Nike, Mikasa, Levi's and a long list. Prices are usually lower by 20-30% from the official products' prices.
Before you start your shopping celebration it is advisable to go to the main office or the visitors' center of the mall and ask whether it is possible to obtain a membership card that grants discounts, or whether there are discounts for AAA members. In most centers you will receive an information booklet regarding discount information for members (the booklets are free of charge) and AAA members. The most significant discounts reach up to 20$. Remember that most of the time, there is a discount on a discount and double deals, so that often you can buy quality products at high discounts.
At the Off Price Shops, I mentioned above, you can buy those products for similar prices or sometimes even lower, however, the selection is much more limited.


Electrical Appliances, electronics and communication

The least expensive place to buy electrical appliances, computers, electronics and communication is at Costco. (see in the previous paragraph under: Members' Shopping Warehouses). Look for deals also in Kmart, Walmart and Target. Two chains of large shops specializing in electrical products are: Fry’s Electronics and Best Buy.


Sport Shoes

The selection of sport products specialty shops is the largest. The relatively least expensive chain is "Big 5”. Because it is one of the largest chains in its field, its volumes sales, enable it to reduce its prices by some 20-40% of the official price. At this store, there is a huge selection of sports gear of all types. This chain has branches only in Western U.S.A. A successful large sport shop on the East Coast is Sport Authority. Another successful chain in the Southeast is Academy Sports.

Avoid buying sport shoes in the shops specializing in this in the prestigious malls; those are the most expensive. If you are not looking for a specific model, you will be able to find sport shoes by the leading firms in the Off Price shops. It is most worthwhile to buy sport shoes at the Factory Outlet stores where the selection is huge, the prices are attractive and there are many deals.


Stationary and handicrafts

A staggering chain of handicraft shops, ornaments, design, holiday gadgets and birthdays and parties is Michael’s. Creativity fans will refuse to exit it. The prices are reasonable and occasionally there are good deals.
Large chains of office supplies and stationary are Office Depot and Staples, which resembles very much Office Depot.
It is worthwhile to buy stationary in Costco as well as the "Dollar" shops mentioned above.



The houseware chain that are especially worthwhile is Bed Bath &Beyond. The stores are loaded with linen, bath gadgets, storage items and a variety of ornaments. Prices are quite reasonable and occasionally you can find even real bargains. It is pleasant to roam in those stores; everything is organized meticulously and with good taste.


Pets' equipment shops

Americans are well known for their great fondness of pets, and accordingly there are huge branches of shops specializing in the sale of equipment for pets. The selection is huge. For animal lovers, it is recommended to visit those shops to be impressed with the huge selections and become envious… The largest chains are Petco and Petsmart.