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Shopping for Expats in the United Kingdom

Author: Jason Zhou
Submitted: July 2013

Shopping is regarded as a common leisure activity in the UK. You can find local convenience shops on most streets. You can also go to the city or town centre, where you will find lots of larger chain stores. If you want some top brands with lower prices, then retail outlets are definitely a good choice for you. Of course, we cannot ignore online shopping. As the BBC reported in 2012, “The UK is the ‘most internet-based major economy”.

Where to shop

There may be a street market in the city or town centre, where you can buy fresh but cheap vegetables, meat and seafood. And you will see some interesting things there, as the UK is multi-cultural and the cuisine of many countries is represented in markets. Supermarkets can offer you a large variety of goods and services, including certain foods from all over the world. Very large stores are normally situated outside the town or city centre, but are well served by convenient public transport. Some stores even provide free buses between the store and certain places. There are several supermarkets operating in the UK. Some of them are listed below:

  • Asda
  • Co-Operative
  • Iceland
  • Sainsbury’s
  • Marks and Spencer
  • Morrisons
  • Tesco
  • Waitrose

Nearly every town or city has at least one main shopping street. They are called High Streets. You can find lots of shops providing different goods and services. Some may have department stores and shopping centres. However, apart from some shops run by local residents, many of these shops are chains or branches of a national company.  Therefore, you may find most High Streets all over the UK look the same. Some, but not all, of the well known names are listed below:

  • Marks & Spencer
  • Debenhams
  • John Lewis 
  • BHS (British Home Stores)
  • Boots
  • WHSmith
  • House of Fraser
  • Argos
  • Next

There are also many retail outlets all over the UK, where you can find many designer brands with a bargain price. A very famous one is Bicester shopping village:(http://www.bicestervillage.com/). More information can be found here: http://gouk.about.com/od/shopping/a/ukdiscountoutlt.htm

London, as the capital city of the UK, attracts millions of people every day.  In London, you can find luxury department stores like Harrods, Liberty, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols; retail outlets like Dover Street Market; and bargain fashions at London's street markets. Personal shopper services may also be available in some shops. You can just contact the store and arrange the service. For more information about shopping in London, you can obtain a lot of information by simply searching ‘shopping in London’ online.   

Online shopping

Online shopping is very popular in the UK. Nearly all the High Street shops and the supermarkets have their own online shopping websites. Many of them provide free delivery if your purchase reaches a certain level. You can also find comparison websites which show the price difference between shops. For example, My Supermarket provides price comparisons between several supermarkets and some high street stores. Its website can be found here:  ttp://www.mysupermarket.co.uk/.   

You can also buy what you want online from all over the world, such as from Amazon and eBay. But you need to be aware that this is a form of importation. Therefore, this may trigger custom duties and VAT. And some goods are not allowed to enter the UK. Please check the HMRC website for details here: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/customs/.

Shopping hours  

Shops normally open for six days a week. Some may open seven days. Typical hours in a day are listed as below:

Mondays to Saturdays - 9am to 5:30pm
Sundays - 10am to 4pm (or 11am to 5pm) 

Shops in some shopping centres may open until 8pm between Monday and Saturday. And some large supermarkets may have a 24-hour service except for Sundays and bank holidays, on which they normally close at 4pm.  

 

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