There are countless markets, vintage shops and antiques stores in the UK that are worthy of their own blog posts (or even their own books). But there is also the High Street. “High Street” is the equivalent of “Main Street” in America. Almost every London neighborhood has its own High Street, and they are found in towns and cities across the UK. The High Street is lined with that neighborhood’s clothing stores, supermarkets, bookstores, etc.
To the British, there’s a fashion implication – if you shop the High Street, you shop at places like Zara and TopShop that feature on-trend but affordable clothing. I am definitely a High Street shopper, and when visiting foreign countries I enjoy checking out their versions of the High Street stores. Even if I know there’s an H&M around the corner from my apartment, there’s something fun about seeing what the buyers stock in individual markets and picking up an item that you couldn’t necessarily find at the same chain’s local locations. On the flip side, buying a scarf in one city, only to come home and realize it’s in your hometown’s store at a cheaper price compared to what you paid in pounds is not great.
Here are three stores to hit if you’re in town:
- TopShop: This store epitomizes High Street fashion. Skip the Oxford Street flagship store because the crowds will make it too stressful to enjoy. Instead, go into any of the smaller locations – there are over 300 in the UK. Even though TopShop has come to the US, you should still shop the UK locations if you’re in town. Why? It’s actually cheaper to buy TopShop in the UK than it is to buy the same item in the US. The pound prices are doubled when they’re priced in dollars. So if a shirt is £40, it will be marked at $80. If the prices were based on current conversion rates (£1 = $1.55), a £40 shirt should cost $61 – a fairly significant mark up.
- Primark: I particularly recommend this for bargain hunters. It’s like the UK equivalent to Target – the locals call it “Primarché” much like Americans say “Targét”. Its ethical trading policies are admirable, and the clothes are cheap cheap.
- Jack Wills: This one isn’t a mainstay of High Street shopping compared to the other two. However, as their tagline proclaims, it is “Fabulously British”. If you were spending a weekend at an estate in the countryside, you’d want to be decked out in head to toe Jack Wills. They have locations in the preppy towns of the US (Nantucket and Westport, CT, to name a couple), but for the authentic experience, buy something while you’re in the UK – that way you’ll get to ask the shopkeeper if they have any “jumpers” or “gilets” (aka sweaters or vests).
Wondering which stores to skip? If you can wait, visit Brandi Melville, Anthropologie and Apple stores when you’re stateside. From what I can tell they charge the exact same prices in pounds, dollars, and euros regardless of the going exchange rates. You can pay £30 for an item (the equivalent of around $45) or buy it for $30 in the USA.