Shopping Guide to New York City

Woman shopping in New York at night

New York City. Don’t those three magical words just scream “shopper’s paradise”?

Although “budget” may not be the first thing at comes to mind when you think of Big Apple shopping, we have the tips to guide you through the expensive shopping trenches so you can discover the hidden and not-so-hidden bargains in the city that never sleeps!

So put on your most comfortable shoes, grab your biggest tote and gather up your dough. It’s time to go bargain hunting. Sales beware!

The Budget Fashionista’s New York Shopping Tips

  • Find the Sample Sales. New York is known for taxis, big apes and sample sale events. For a general guide to when these sales usually happen, visit our guide to sample sales (NOTE: YOU WILL NEED TO CONTACT THE DESIGNER/STORE DIRECTLY FOR THE SPECIFIC DATE OF THEIR SALES. You can also visit the Metropolitan Pavillion’s website (http://www.metropolitanpavillion.com for a listing of their upcoming sample sale events.
  • Shop Uptown. Although probably best known for being uber-expensive, at least take a stroll along Madison Avenue from the 60’s to the 80’s to window shop. Then head to some of the best consignment shops in the world to try and find these higher end fashions for less. Try consignment shops like Michael’s Consignment Shop and Cancer Care Thrift Shop, where ladies who lunch sale last season’s Chanel suits for rock bottom prices.
  • Explore Midtown. Visit the three B’s: Bergdorf, Barney’s (which started off as men’s discount suit retailer), and Bendel’s – plus their more conservative cousin – Saks. Then head to Zara, Mexx, and the flagship H&M store to find similar fashions (but lower quality)  for significantly less.
  • Stop at Chelsea. Chelsea is as close to suburbian shopping as Manhattan gets with a Loehmanns (deals okay, sales staff horrible), Bed, Bath & Beyond, Old Navy (which has a large plus size section), and T.J. Maxx. However, you can find great deals while supporting worthy causes at the nearby Housing Works Thrift Shop, where I found a beautiful, barely worn, Donna Karan Collection evening dress for $45 (retail price- $1500+). Also take a stroll by the Find Outlet, which is really more like a boutique, with discounted finds from designers like Chloe , Paul& Joe, etc.
  • Shop Downtown. As long as authenticity doesn’t concern you, Chinatown is the perfect place to bargain hunt. The street is a knock-off mecca. Plus head to Gabay’s outlet, a little known shoppers paradise off the beaten path.
  • Bring credit cards. New Yorkers rarely carry more than $20 in cash. Sad but true – it’s just not safe nor practical. Try to stay away from traveler’s checks, as well. Many merchants regard them as a nuisance.
  • Call ahead. Stores tend to come and go quickly in Manhattan. Before you make the trip, make sure the store is still there.
  • Ship it home. The 8.25% sales tax can put a crimp in any sale you might find. Avoid the tax by having the item shipped to your home state.
  • Limit taxi use. Yes, they are bright and yellow, and riding in one is a great NYC experience. However, each little jaunt cuts into your shopping dollars. So walk whenever possible. Blocks running north-south tend to be shorter than blocks running east-west. The subway system is also fast and relatively safe.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. Only Sarah Jessica Parker goes shopping in New York City wearing Manolo Blahnik. Shopping in New York is a sport.You wouldn’t wear heels to play sports, now, would you?
  • Pick up a Time Out Magazine or a New York Magazine. These weekly magazines profile all the major and minor shopping, theatre, art, comedy, books and other events in New York city.
  • Venture outside of Manhattan. Some of the best shopping in Manhattan is located outside the island. Head to over to the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn for unqiue boutique and designs from up and coming designers who can’t afford Manhattan rents. Also check out Aarons Brooklyn. This well-loved (read: messy) discount department store has been a mainstay in the Park Slope neighborhood since the days of the Brooklyn Dodgers. In stock are designers such as Misook, Tahari and Sanctuary. On your way to the airport, visit the Jersey Garden Outlet Mall in Elizabeth, NJ (Saks Fifth Avenue Outlet and Last Call Neiman Marcus Outlet) or if you are really up for an adventure, trek an hour north to the grand-mama of all outlet malls, Woodbury Commons Premium Outlets, which features the outlets of Chanel, Prada, Bottega Veneta, and more.

New York’s Top Shop

Century 21
22 Cortlandt Street @ Day Street, New York, NY
Phone: 212-227-9092

Although the hordes of shoppers and overflowing clothing racks may leave your Century 21 shopping experience with a little something to be desired, you can’t beat the euphoria that comes when shopping this enormous downtown discount bonanza.

More New York Information

  • New York Magazine – A great place for the scoop on all things New York.
  • The Insider – Like having a friend with connections.
  • Gray Line Tours– A double-decker must for anyone visiting New York. Resist the urge to throw things at those on the ground – soon enough, you’ll be among them.
  • The New York Times – Web site of the nation’s paper of record.
  • TKTS – The place for discount Broadway tickets.

Know a great shopping tip or store for NYC? Post it in the comments section below.

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Catherine Brock

Style Editor at The Budget Fashionista
Catherine Brock is a writer, editor and marketer who's been sharing wisdom online since 2002. She's been featured on DrLaura.com, Wellness.com and ABC7 Chicago, FOX2News St. Louis and KCAL9 Los Angeles. Connect with Catherine on LinkedIn, Instagram, or Twitter.
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