Shopping up a storm Stateside
AFTER forking out plenty for clothes, cosmetics and handbags over the years — shopping in outlets as diverse as Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and a fake-goods complex in Shanghai — it was a shock to discover just how cheap the US is these days.
Visiting Macy’s department store in San Francisco last weekend — as part of a flying visit to California’s Napa Valley organised by Trafalgar — I saw Ralph Lauren suede shoes for $US71 ($68) and leather tote bags for a mere $US120. Clinique lipsticks were $US17 — half the price charged in Aussie stores.
From labels such as DKNY to Max Mara, just about everything in the Macy’s Union Square store was on sale — some items were even cheaper at the register. As a bonus, the store assistants in luxury lifestyle brand Tory Burch, upmarket fashion designer Michael Kors and the budget Walgreens pharmacy were helpful and friendly.
Of course, significant contributors to these low prices have been the sluggish American economy and the rise and rise of our dollar. (Back in 2002, $1 bought US56c. Now we are in front.)
US cruise prices are also to die for, with the cost of the upmarket cruises departing Florida enough to make you want to move Stateside. The Vacations to Go website discounts some cruises by up to 83 per cent. Carnival Legend sets sail for 18 nights from Miami to Venice in February with a starting price of $US648 a person. That’s a mere $US36 a night for food and accommodation. There are plenty of other bargains — Royal Caribbean’s 10-night sailing from San Juan to Lisbon in April is selling for $US39 a person a night.
US hotel prices are also low compared with Australia. In Los Angeles, The Langham Huntington Hotel & Spa, has guestrooms on offer through wotif.com for $US252 a night on Christmas Eve. The cheapest room for The Langham in Sydney on Christmas Eve is $341, including breakfast.
The Tourism & Transport Forum’s Rowan Barker says airfares to the US are about half the price they were 10 years ago. ‘‘It’s never been more affordable,’’ he says.
And with such low prices in the US, it’s little wonder Americans are shy about coming here.
In the year ending June 30, 2007, Australia welcomed 455,000 US tourists. For the year to June 30, 2012, that number was up only marginally, to 466,000.
Unless US travellers are fabulously wealthy, they will find Sydney, Melbourne and Perth prices to be astronomical, which is something most of us Aussies have known for years.
Lisa Allen was a guest of Trafalgar.