Shopping in New York City is an unforgettable experience. While famed department stores like Macy's and Bloomingdale's carry all the necessities—and quite a bit more—there are countless boutiques, vintage stores and flea markets throughout the City that offer one-of-a-kind wares. How do you make the most of your trip? We've rounded up the City's best-kept shopping secrets below—just a few tips on how to maximize any shopping excursion to NYC. Read on for more.
Districts = Discounts
The Garment District is where the fashion industry is centered, so you'll find fabrics, textiles and clothing there at low prices. The Financial District, once home to electronics emporium J&R, still has a few discount computer and electronics stores (as well as a couple of Lot-Less Closeouts locations). Meanwhile, the wares offered in two block-long districts are largely self-evident: Midtown's Diamond District houses around 2,500 independent jewelers selling some of the world's most precious—and typically expensive—jewels at discounted prices; and the Flower District, in Chelsea, is NYC's wholesaler for fresh blooms, supplies and even fake flowers, all reasonably priced.
Although we list some sample sales on our Fashion Calendar, bargain hunters will probably want to do their own searching online. Venues like Clothingline, Metropolitan Pavilion and 260 Sample Sale are constantly holding sample sales, and paying attention to their events is still the best way we've found to score designer items at up to 75% off. You'll find steep markdowns on last season's merchandise from a variety of luxe brands—think Alexander Wang, Manolo Blahnik, YSL and, if you're lucky enough to get a coveted invite, Christian Louboutin. Sales are often announced with little notice, so we recommend keeping your finger on the refresh button.
Shop the Strips
Whatever you're looking for, you can get a lot of shopping done on just one of the City’s major thoroughfares. Stretches of luxury retailers line Fifth and Madison Avenues. Williamsburg's Bedford Avenue is brimming with vintage stores. Canal Street is good for bargains on a variety of accessories—perfect if you're in need of a leather bag, scarf, watch, hat, jewelry or all of the above. (Plus, if you enjoy haggling, Canal Street is the place to do it.)
More ambitious types might choose to shop an entire neighborhood. SoHo is perhaps the City's most famous retail destination, with brands skewing both mass (H&M) and niche (the designer-heavy downtown outpost of Bloomingdale's). But other areas are equally appealing: the Flatiron District, for instance, offers an eclectic mix of stores, including N.Y. Cake & Baking Distributors, which has every baking tool you could ever think of; magic-trick megastore Abracadabra; home-furnishings emporium ABC Carpet & Home; and comprehensive photography atelier Adorama.
Wait for January and July Clearances
While clearance sales take place at different shops throughout the year, the larger department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale's generally hold them after their storewide inventories, which take place at the start of January (after the holiday rush) and in early July. Sales tend to occur about a week after so that the retailers can unload their seasonal merch. Scour aisles starting around mid-month for the year's biggest savings.
Do Some Digging
You'll be surprised what you find in the sale and clearance bins at your favorite stores, usually located in the back or on the lower level. At Century 21, the sales emporium, the store's lower level features a J&R Express, various home goods and, most important, lots and lots of designer shoes—at up to 65% off. It's a great place to get lost (with a credit card). Similarly, the Strand, with its 18 miles of books, is one of the City's best places to squander a few hours. Start on the lower level, where new arrivals are offered at steep discounts.
Off-the Radar Locations
The Nordstrom Rack and Century 21 locations in Manhattan may be well known to shoppers, but there are also less-trafficked locations (which means more merch) throughout the five boroughs. Try the gigantic Century 21 in Bay Ridge and the brand's adjacent home-goods store, Century 21 Edition, where collaborations with designers, presentations and private sales take place. Neiman Last Call, just off of Court Street in Downtown Brooklyn, offers a comparable experience, as does the Nordstrom Rack nearby at Fulton Street—a calmer affair than its Union Square sister store.
There Are Shopping Malls Here
Despite its reputation, NYC has parks, gardens and, yes, even malls sprinkled throughout the five boroughs. In Manhattan, the Shops at Columbus Circle is a tranquil escape from Midtown’s bustle and features established names like Williams-Sonoma, J. Crew and Diptyque. The Queens Center Mall, Kings Plaza Shopping Center, the Staten Island Mall and Bronx Terminal Market all offer convenient shopping and a variety of brands.
Don't Miss Marshalls or TJ Maxx
Marshalls and TJ Maxx are both great spots to find designer shoes, denim, clothing, accessories and makeup at marked-down prices. These stores receive new arrivals every weekday, meaning the stock is constantly rotating—it's said that the best time to shop at these stores is on Wednesdays, the day that merchandise is usually marked down.
Befriend a Salesperson
After making a purchase or inquiring about one, ask for your salesperson's card. Since many rely on commission, they'll likely ask to put you on email lists so you'll be the first to know about store presales. This will allow you to reserve items before they go on sale to the general public.