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World's best shopping festivals

Published March 12th, 2014

Call me shallow, but I reckon shopping is an essential part of the travel experience, especially in the big cities. There’s no points for lugging home  products you can purchase at your local mall – I’m talking one-of-a-kind pieces or labels at bargain-basement prices to justify occupying valuable space in my suitcase/s. And it’s not just me – major metropolises around the world recognise that hardcore shoppers will travel for unique items they can’t get in their home country or to nab designer brands for dirt cheap.



Sure, shopping online has made exclusive items and global brands more accessible, but you truly haven’t lived until you’ve witnessed two old ladies in a tug-of-war over a brassiere at the annual Harrods’ Winter Sale. Kicking off on Boxing Day, it’s kind of a big deal with blankets for shoppers queuing outside, butlers serving canapés and hot chocolate, and a notable celeb or two to open the proceedings.


If you don’t already realise, serious sale shopping is a military operation. You need to establish your directives, rendezvous at the set point, go over your tactical plan and run through your manoeuvres. A codename never hurts either.


Your retail assault will also require some funding. It’s a good idea to travel with a variety of money options including cash, money card and plastic. Of these, a credit or debit card is the safest and most useful way to access cash. Visa is accepted at millions of merchants and you can also withdraw the local currency at over 2 million ATMs worldwide. So, what are you waiting for? Grab your plastic and an empty suitcase and get spending at these global shopping festivals.



Dubai Shopping Festival (January – February)

Now in its 19th year, this is the spot for up to 70 percent off electronic gear, fashion, jewellery and more at over 6,000 shops and 70 malls across the emirate. There’s also night fireworks, shows and giveaways all wrapped up in package deals. Being Dubai, you know there’s going to be some amazing world-firsts. In 2014, the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, hosted the first-ever Dubai Shopping Festival Vertical Catwalk. A fitting contrast to the how-low-can-you-go sales.


Korea Grand Sale (January – February)

According to the Bank of Korea (which would know such things), South Koreans have a serious shopping addiction, ringing up the most credit card transactions per capita of any country in the world in 2011. What does this mean for global shoppers? A nationwide extravaganza with traditional markets, department stores, edgy boutiques, pop-up shops and shopping malls all offering serious discounts. Plus a K-POP concert at the Seoul Music Awards. Gangnam style indeed!


Japan Shopping Festival (January & July)

The home of high-end designers, aesthetically pleasing handicrafts, cult cosmetics and electronics, Japan is renowned for its shopping and style. Hit up the annual Japan Shopping Festival in winter or summer to score major bargains in any of the main cities of Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka. Expect up to 70 percent off items in over 5,000 participating stores with heaps of prizes up for grabs and entertainment to take in when it all gets too much. Then strut your stuff with the Harajuku girls.


The Great Singapore Sale (June - July)

This annual event known as GSS is your one-stop shop for deals on luxury labels, beauty brands and even dining discounts during the two-month shopping spree that’s been running for 21 years. You’ll find bargain buys at shopping malls and precincts in the city and suburbs with up to 70 percent off original prices. Whether you’re after traditional souvenirs, boutique offerings or high-street steal, you’ll find all this and more in Singapore. Come prepared to fight the crowds  for tax-free shopping.


Hong Kong Shopping Festival (June - August)

There’s never a bad time of the year to hit the shops in Honkers, but as part of the Summer Spectacular festival, there are some extra sweet shopping deals on during these months. Global Shopper Index ranks Hong Kong as the best shopping city in the Asia-Pacific region and found 87 percent of tourists in Hong Kong go shopping. During the Hong Kong Shopping Festival, look for vouchers and coupons and sales with discounts of over 50 percent on end-of-season fashion.


USA Outlet Shopping Festival (October)

A newcomer to global sales, the USA Outlet Shopping Festival is held on a weekend annually to promote America’s outlet malls. Not that they really need introducing – US prices are awesome anyway, but there’s serious bargains to be had in these here shopping centres. In 2013, 21 states participated in the event including all Bloomingdale’s, Calvin Klein, Nike, Nine West and Tommy Hilfiger outlet stores across the USA. For the most outlet options, head to Pennsylvania or Florida.



Cassandra Laffey

Consumed with unrequited wanderlust, I get my fix in 24/7 cities and hippie retreats. I'm still looking for the ultimate combo of secluded beach and major metropolis, and my happy place is a 5-star hotel room all to myself - sigh.