It’s almost August and you’re wondering if there’s a typo in my title right?! Well, let me just say that this is not a mistake. Consider this a TRAVEL PLANNING ADVISORY for next year.
I just returned from a week-long trip in London, a city that’s still coming to grips with the aftermath of Brexit, the British people’s decision for the country to detach from the European Union. Much like the election we have going on this year in the U.S., there’s a lot of mixed feelings there in London about Brexit. As a tourist visiting a foreign land, I can only tell you that I did not feel unsafe at all when I walked through the city and took the tube from point A to point B to point Z. I can also tell you that it was the best time to be shopping there because the British Pound (GBP) is at a 30-year low.
Thanks to Brexit, the British pound dropped in value overnight. The U.S. dollar (USD) gained strength in light of this decision. What use to cost 50% more in USD after the conversion is now only 30% more after the conversion. In other words, when I bought something a year ago in England for 100 GBP, it would actually be approximately $150 USD when it showed up on my credit card bill. This time around, that same 100 GBP purchase is only $130 USD, an automatic discount purely based on the change in the currency exchange rate. So what?! Well, retailers there are not going around changing the price tags on everything to make up for that $20 USD delta just so I pay the same amount I would’ve paid in USD last week. The price on the tag will not be adjusted to fluctuate with the changing exchange rates. This meant big savings for me, a tourist from America!
Like a bad infomercial, let me just say… BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!!! The last two weeks of June is a colossal sale season for the London retailers. Stores are making room mid-year for the remaining six months of the year. This is true in everywhere. From affordable fast fashion brands like H&M and Forever 21 to the major department stores of Harrods and Liberty to the independent luxury boutiques on Regent Street like Burberry and Hunter. I saw steep discounts on brands that would never allow a discount sticker to go near them in the states. Burberry, Gucci, Oscar de la Renta, Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik, and Alaia just to name a few. Some may have more items than others on sale, Alaia did not have as many sales pieces as Burberry but they had at least a couple styles of dresses, a few bags and some belts. In the states, you’re lucky to see one item on sale for Alaia. Heck, you’d be lucky to see a couple dresses available. Practically every brand had something on sale. This is their seasonal clearance time and the rewards were tremendous.
You may say, we have sales in the states too around that time, usually in July. Why go all the way over there? To be honest, if you’re going to shop at the fast fashion brands, it’s totally not worth the trip. However, if you’re a purveyor of fine European designer brands, that’s the place to be. The closer you get to the source, the greater your options will be.
My pièce de résistance from the week-long trip: a Gucci Bamboo Daily Blooms bag in red Epi leather purchase from Gucci at Harrods. This item was not only 40% off, it was in brand new condition (they had 3 other pieces from which I handpicked mine after close scrutiny). After my purchase, buyer’s remorse immediately swept over me. I didn’t regret the bag choice but I worried that the same item may also be on sale in the states for even more of a discount. Immediately after I returned to my hotel room, I pulled up Gucci’s US site, the bag is nowhere to be found in either the sales page or the regular-priced items. Whew! A sign of relief came over me. I then flipped over to their UK site and noticed the bag right away on their sale page. Can I have it shipped to the U.S.? Just curious. I tried… no go. Oh yes, did I mention that different countries have different designs, colors and variations from time to time to suit the local taste? I don’t know if this was available in the U.S. at regular price but I’m just reveling in the joy of acquiring this bag that I love on sale (a hefty one in my mind) when it wasn’t even available at all in the states anymore. The cherry on top?! I had to have that! The 20% VAT rebate that I got as I bid UK farewell and returned home. Seriously! What’s the final takeaway?
- HUGE store discounts on luxury brands everywhere (not seen in the states)
- LOTS of choices on sales items and styles (not matchable in the states)
- USD to GBP currency exchange rate working in my favor (not always true)
- 20% VAT rebate (helps to recoup any loss from unfavorable exchange rate)
Even though the same currency exchange rate will be unlikely, the store discounts and VAT savings alone will be totally worth the trip. So, plan for a week in London at the end of next June. You won’t regret it!
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