Century 21 - 22 Cortlandt Street
No, not that store that sells trashy, short skirts. The NYC Century 21 is all about offering designer clothing at reduced prices. Picture it as a massive Winners but with better selection, actual designer fashion (Stella McCarthy, Prada, our friend Alexander McQueen) and quite possibly the most hostile sales clerks on the planet (on a previous trip, I once watched a customer and store manager almost come to blows).
The place can be a little overwhelming and I recommend not going on the weekend or during the lunch hour when the crowds are at their thickest. Also, the line-up for the change room can be crazy so if possible, dress so that you try things on right in the aisle (you can do this with about anything other than certain dresses).
While there is a lot of hideous crap, as while as defective items, if you’re up for digging, you can find some amazing deals. In particular, I recommend the leather jacket department (lots of cute and quality leather jackets in the low $200s) as well as the shoe department (tons of stuff under $100). And the bag department is pretty good. Actually, most of it is pretty good except for non-leather jackets and jeans (and of course jeans were what I was looking for).
The store is located right across from Ground Zero so if you’re curious to check it out but don’t want to actually tell people that, heading to Century 21 is a good way so see that space and get some shopping done.
DSW & Shoe Zone – Union Square locations
I’m lumping these two stores together because they’re right near each and both have the same angle: Selling mostly brand name shoes cheaply.
While, maybe not “cheaply” but cheaper than what you’d pay for the same shoe in Canada. And DSW in particular has a huge selection of shoes (I might actually rival Century 21’s selection).
The main floor of Shoe Zone is a little calmer and classier than DSW but it also means that you need a clerk to get your size and generally I try to minimize all interaction with clerks at NYC stores (you go and you’ll see what I mean). DSW is much more Century 21/war zone like.
Both stores can also be quite competitive when it comes to customers and their shoes. I actually hide a pair I liked in DSW, slipped over to Shoe Zone to see what it had and not even 15 minutes later went back to DSW to buy my shoes only to discover that someone else had already bought them.
Pylones – Three locations but I went to the one at 69 Spring St
This is one of those fun stores that sells kitchen gadgets in the shape of animals and novelty, well, almost everything. It’s a great place to pick up gifts, including stuff for yourself.
I was actually quite impressed with the prices given the “fun” nature of the store. I’ve seen some of the items this store sells in Toronto but the prices here were all cheaper by several dollars.
While I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit this store, if you happen to be in the neighbourhood (maybe getting something at Rice to Riches), it’s worth checking out.
This bath/body/fragrance store is worth stopping just for the free luxury hand washing it offers. But be warned, once you try (or smell) these products, you’re going to want to leave with something.
Thankfully the pricing isn’t crazy, though this place is no Century 21. I bought a large body scrub for $30 and am thrilled with my purchase. Made with Dead Sea salt and fruity oils, this stuff feels great (though its glass-container-metal-lid design could be improved).
If there was a Toronto Sabon, I would regularly shop there.
Uniqlo – 546 Broadway (Soho)
And if there was a Toronto Uniqlo, I would also shop there all the time. This is basically an H&M-type store but with slightly less trendy clothes that (knock-on-wood) seem better made.
And like the first H&Ms, this place is quite zoo-like, with massive changing room lines, people everywhere and a shortage of the more common sizes. Still, despite all the negatives, this store is worth checking out because the clothes are great, the selection of styles is huge and the prices are amazing.
The next time you’re leaving a NY or the Newark airport, take a look around at the bags people are carrying. I have no doubt that you’ll see more than a couple Uniqlo bags.
Brooklyn Industries – Multiple Locations
Saving the best for last! Brooklyn Industries is probably my favourite clothing store because it’s packed with stuff I like, stuff I can afford and stuff that looks good on me. I tried on six or seven different spring/summer dresses and at least four of them looked good on me (that success rate is virtually unheard of for me). And at between $60-$110, they were all well priced (but I was a good girl and only bought one).
While the clothes definitely aren’t as cheap as what you’ll find at Uniqlo, they do have a bit more originality to them. And if you’re looking for a NY souvenir t-shirt that doesn't look like a NY souvenir t-shirt, check out what this store has to offer. Yeah, their tees cost a bit more than what you’d pay from a street vendor but they’ll easily last you a year.