Shopping is one of the world’s favourite pastimes. How we shop and what we buy in different countries can be quite revealing about the history, culture and values of each. Sometimes though, globalisation, in the form of chain stores and Amazon, can seem to be taking over the world. Time to celebrate our differences! Take a little world tour and see the variety of specialist shops specific to different countries.
UK – CHARITY SHOPS
Although secondhand shops are dotted around the world, in the UK, it’s impossible to find a high street without one. 11,200 charity shops are run by a quarter of a million volunteers selling items such as clothes, furniture, homewares and entertainment, all donated by the public. Charity shops benefit from tax exemptions, such as not having to pay VAT on the sale of donated goods. Despite raising more than £270m for charitable causes such as cancer, homelessness and mental health, the shops have received some bad press in recent years for pricing items too highly.
HONG KONG – HERBAL MEDICINE SHOPS
Chinese herbal medicine is still a big part of daily life in Hong Kong. The Sheung Wan area is home to many shops, some which have been passed down through generations over hundreds of years. You can find thousands of ingredients packed in brightly coloured boxes, the vast majority coming from plants, trees and fungi sourced in mainland China. Prescriptions are delivered from a Chinese herbal doctor and taken home to be consumed as teas, tonics, soups, massage ointments or wines.
AMERICA – GUN SHOPS
There are over 64,000 gun shops in America. If you can believe it, that’s 50,000 more than Mc Donald’s restaurants. According to recent figures, they make a mind-blowing $3 billion in revenue each year. You can find them in every state, from cities to suburbs, selling handguns, shotguns, ammunition and accessories. Despite a rise of online sales, customers like the face-to-face interaction with store dealers so they can be guided through the regulations and get more in-depth information.
JAPAN – TOY AND FIGURINE SHOPS
Every toy fanatic knows Japan is the best place to get a figurine fix with over 634 billion yen spent on Toy shipments each year. Tokyo is the ultimate toy town, home to 10 storey high shops packed with cabinets bursting with plastic toys. You’ll find gachapon, robots, character merch, manga, action and anime figures. It’s also all too easy to stumble into a minefield of adults-only territory, with risqué manga often placed next to a stack of innocent fluffy teddies.
DUBAI – SHOPPING MALLS
With its climate frequently over 110F and a huge drive in property development, it is probably not surprising Dubai is famous for its malls of monster proportions. At 5.9 million square feet, the Dubai Mall is the largest in the world and, like a huge Russian doll, contains malls within the mall as well as a theme park, a waterfall, ‘dancing’ fountains, an Olympic-sized ice rink, aquarium and an indoor souk. If that’s not big enough to cool down the 80 million plus annual visitors it gets each year, there’s always the Mall of the Emirate, with the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East, just up the road.