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Stores and stripes

Is there anywhere quite like New York? It's instantly familiar, larger than life and utterly electric. There's so many reasons to visit too: the Empire State Building, Central Park, Broadway, The Guggenheim and the shopping.

Dear God, the shopping. The choices are endless and the prices seem like a dream come true to our over-charged, recession-blurred eyes.

America was always good for shopping, of course, but these days, even though plenty of brands are now available here, it's more tempting than ever. With every euro worth nearly $1.50 (at the time of writing) the money you'd save would probably pay for your whole trip . . . and the empty suitcase you'll have to buy while you're there.

In this city of endless options a shopping experience can be whatever you want it to be. For labels there's the big department stores: Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and the like, each offering many glittering floors of merchandise, substantial savings and ever-helpful staff.

If you love finding unique fashion pieces or something a bit different, head downtown to the boutiques and pretty streets of SoHo, Nolita, the West Village and Lower East Side.


Seasoned bargain hunters should check out the famous Century 21 downtown on 22 Cortlandt Street (right beside Ground Zero). But this is a TK MAXX type of deal, so you need to be willing to wade through a lot of rubbish (and people) to get the bargains.

Beauty buffs should get to a Sephora, or indeed the beauty counters at any of the big stores, for serious savings. Apple lovers will lose their minds and contents of their wallets in the brand's Fifth Avenue store.

While it's true that a stay in any city can be immeasurably improved if you have a local to point you in the right direction, it's even more true in New York's case. Wandering around the lower neighbourhoods is always fun but if you don't know where the good shops are, you could be missing out on a million chances to say, 'What? This old thing? Ah, just something I picked up in a little boutique in the Village.'


The excellent Shop Gotham Tour Company is a gateway to the shopping side of New York that might otherwise pass you by. Its walking tour of SoHo and Nolita brings you to the area's best stores and offers snippets of local history and insider info on where the celebs shop. There's also a Garment Centre tour (a behind-the-scenes shopping expedition to private wholesale rooms) and private tours for groups of four.

Any serious shopping fan will be familiar with the Woodbury Common outlet mall which offers savings of 25 to 65pc on big names, more if you sign up for the VIP Club on the website.

It's about an hour from Manhattan (there are regular buses from Port Authority) and has 220 stores including Adidas, Barneys New York Outlet, Burberry, Jimmy Choo, Calvin Klein, Chanel, Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Gap Outlet, Nike Factory Store and Tommy Hilfiger.

One of the best cities in the world, New York is truly a shopper's paradise but a word of caution: before you head off on your shopping frenzy, keep in mind you may be caught by customs on your way back into Dublin. For lots of info on your allowances and what you might have to pay if you go over them or don't declare purchases, check out www.revenue.ie.