What to buy in the UK vs. the USA.

As part of my preparations for my trip back to the UK I collect a few shopping requests from family and friends here.  I think it is commonly perceived that most goods are much cheaper in the USA.  It’s true that many are – but there are also several brands that are FAR cheaper in the UK.

I normally have a little list of places to go when I’m back in the UK on the hunt for a bargain.

1.  Many European brands/high street stores simply multiply by 2 when converting £s to $s instead of using the exchange rate.  Plus our sticker price here is not the final price as we add sales tax on at the register, which varies from county to county and state to state.  This can make brands like Zara and H&M far cheaper to buy in the UK.

2. Classic UK brands such as Barbour, Hunter, Ted Baker and Paul Smith are usually far cheaper in the UK.  My Husband has sized himself for a Barbour here which I can then collect in the UK at half the price.

3. There are many books and music titles that are not available in the US.  I can’t find Take That’s Progress on iTunes – nor The Pete Tong Collection (I did manage to buy the latter on Amazon.com).  Again my Husband orders several books from Amazon.co.uk and has them delivered to my Mum – why he thinks I’ll have room in my bags for books I’ve no idea!  I am much more shallow, as ever, and make sure I get my hands on Grazia, Hello and the Sunday papers.

4. In the US we don’t have Primark – now it’s definitely at hit or miss store – but the bargains that can be found are amazing.  I bought my favorite pair of boyfriend jeans there for £12 last year!

5. If only we had the same power and sockets in the US and UK I’d be sorted.  My ghd hairdryer cost a fortune here compared to the UK.  We also unfortunately don’t easy access to other European brands like Parlux.

6. Of course you’re not supposed to travel with some types of food and import it back to the US but I always return with custard creams, galaxy chocolate, pickled onion Monster Munch and Bisto gravy granules:)  I eat as many pork pies and M&S sandwiches as I can while I’m there!

Now for things that you should definitely buy when making a trip the US:

1.  Makeup is far cheaper here – from drugstore brands like Revlon and L’oréal to department store brands like MAC, Clinique and Chanel.  OPI and Essie nail polishes are also only $8 a pop here – my Mum always stocks up:)

2. Sneakers/trainers are much cheaper here – though I think the choice is more varied in Europe.  They normally just switch the £ for a $ making them dirt cheap compared to the UK.

3. My FIL always pops into the Apple store to upgrade his iPad when he’s here.  The fact that Apple use universal power, meaning no transformer is required, makes it far cheaper to buy here – though it has to be said that prices are coming down in the UK.  My Mum and Dad bought theirs at John Lewis – paying slightly more – but having the comfort of the John Lewis warranty made it worth it to them.

4. Housewares are cheaper.  Want a good potato peeler (yes I’ve been asked to take TWO back to the UK), or a good apple slicer?  Buy it here at Target.

5. Designer goods are generally much cheaper here.  My Rag & Bone Newbury boots are cheaper, as are most designer bags.  You will find however the focus on labels varies significantly.  I NEVER see Mulberry here, yet I would never buy Coach or Tory Burch here as you see their logos EVERYWHERE.  One thing to note is TheOutnet.com stocks widely differing brands here compared to the UK so if you are here long enough to receive a delivery it might be worth checking out.  For example this Alexander Wang Rocco is 45% off here and yet it’s not even on the UK site.


6. US brands that have traveled across the Atlantic are far cheaper here – J.Crew being the most obvious, but Banana Republic and Gap are also much cheaper here.

7. Here in the US most states have fabulous outlet malls.  One word of caution though stores like J.Crew and Coach often make items just for the outlets – so that bargain you think you are getting may not be so much of a bargain.

Now for my outfits from the past few days…I adore these new H&M trousers that Eve alerted me to.  The fabric is lovely and stretchy but I still needed to size up to a US 10 – the waistband is tiny – no vanity sizing here!

Allsaints leather

Sneakers – Adidas Samoas // Trousers – H&M // Sweatshirt – AllSaints // Jacket – AllSaints // Scarf – Uniqlo

I’ve been trying to wear some fur before it gets warmer.

hermes 2 Hermes


Boots – Isabel Marant Dicker // Jeans – ASOS Saxby (just $20 now!) // Jumper – Boden cashmere crew neck // Jacket – Forever21 (old – similar here on sale) // Scarf – Hermés (gift from my Husband)

It was cold but REALLY sunny yesterday!

Boden gilet 2 Boden gilet


Sneakers – Isabel Marant Bobby // Jeans – Zara (old) // Jumper – Boden St. Ives // Gilet – Boden JohnnieB

My first port of call in the UK is normally Marks & Spencer – more for nostalgia – but I do love a bit of M&S!  What stores or brands would you miss if you relocated to a different country?  I’d love to know!

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35 thoughts on “What to buy in the UK vs. the USA.

  1. Fiona

    I love the fur feature! My favourite on you is the Boden one at the end – how cute is that?
    It’s funny what we miss/desire from overseas. I love Old Navy in the US and you can’t beat your outlet malls – we just don’t have them that good over here.

    Cannot wait to see you and those fabulous bangs (oh get me!)!


    1. Poppy's Style Post author

      I love Old Navy too! Their jeans are fab and the kids always get their jeans from there – they last forever. You’ll see my ‘fringe’ soon enough love xx

    1. Poppy's Style Post author

      I think Mulberry is cheaper in the UK – especially as VAT is included and there is no sales tax to add – not sure how Canada compares though. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the brand in Atlanta – it’s one reason I keep thinking about getting one. I wish Coach wasn’t so ubiquitous here as their prices and quality are great.

  2. Jenny G

    Love the furry gilet – I want one! I think I would miss Primark you know – their skinny jeans fit me perfectly and cost £7/8 – I have three pairs! If I was over there (my husband is planning a trip for the future) I’d have to delve into the Mac etc – too good to miss. The fringe/bangs are looking funky as ever Joanna x

    1. Poppy's Style Post author

      The vest was a great steal from Boden – I love it – it’s a great color and super soft! When I head back to Bury it is perfect – there is now M&S, Superdry, H&M and Primark all within a step of each other! xx

  3. iwontwearsludgebrown

    What a great post Joanna. So to summarise, you want what we’ve got (M&S sarnies) and we want what you’ve got (J Crew). Think I would rather be you! We’re gearing up for a USA visit this year, bring it on. My credit card, it does twitch x

    1. Poppy's Style Post author

      You’re right the grass is always greener! I remember the first time I came over to NYC and I was in awe of Macy’s! I can’t bear to shop in there now as I find it such a maze and I get overwhelmed!

    1. Poppy's Style Post author

      I’m taking a bag just for Molton Brown body wash…and yep bacon and sausage rolls are always on the menu at Mum and Dad’s 🙂 xx

  4. ja4marti

    This is such a good comparison. I did one for USA and Canada not too long ago, but it really depends where you are shopping in the US as at full retail we were very comparable until our dollar took a nose dive.

    I will have to book mark this. London/UK trip is at the top of my list now that we are traveling again!

    1. Poppy's Style Post author

      There really are some great bargains to be had in the UK and of course items that I can’t get here – top of my list are certain beauty brands – things as simple as Nivea Q10 hand cream, plus I need to stock up on Molton Brown body washes:) x

  5. mymidlifefashion

    Think I need a trip to the US of A Joanna so that I can take advantage of all these discounts!! Love all your outfits & loving your hair too, I can’t believe how fast it’s growing! Jane xx

    1. Poppy's Style Post author

      I’m taking the Biotin and Folic acid every day!! I really think it helps…get yourself over here – I can help you shop anytime:) x

  6. Liz

    It’s really interesting how much prices differ between here and the U.S.
    We went to NY a few years ago and stocked up on Abercrombie and Hollister.
    I love your JohnnieB gilet and the weather looks beautiful there. Can’t wait to meet you in March, love Liz xxx

    1. Poppy's Style Post author

      I’d forgotten about A&F – another brand I wouldn’t be seen wearing here as it really is all about the 14 and 15 year olds!:) The quality is amazing though and I always get asked to take some back to the UK as it is much more acceptable to wear it there!

      We’re stuck in an ice storm today…praying the power stays on:(

  7. Sue

    Fab summary – I love reading stuff like this and it’s surprising what costs more over there than here and vice versa. But I think I did okay with my sweatshirt :o)

    And the bangs/fringe – looks lovely. A little sultry – I detect a bit of smoky eye going on and it’s good.

    1. Poppy's Style Post author

      It is only a summary – I keep thinking I could do a long side by side comparison. You sure did good with the sweatshirt – though I am now freaking out about forgetting to pack it!!

      TheOutnet in the UK is definitely pricier than here but has far greater choice – I’ve never seen Newbury boots on their site here for example. I think a lot of brands control what goes on ‘sale’ based on location.

      Yep some smokey eye – experimenting with my makeup again – all about the red lips right now too. xx

  8. Schoolrunstyle Mum

    I love posts like this, I will keep this saved for my visit to the US next year….hope trainers are still ‘in’ then! Love your furs and those H&M trousers wow, fab, H&m is on fire this season! X

    1. Poppy's Style Post author

      H&M are doing great aren’t they!? It’s even better now we can shop online here – my kids LOVE their clothes too – trendy but not too grown up…x

  9. schoolgatestyle

    Great post Joanna – I do love a bit of outlet shopping in the US and generally pick up some Gap and Coach when I’m there. Last time I was in CT, I got a great Cole Haan bag hugely reduced and I still use it regularly – 8 years on!
    But what about your hair?! OMG – loving it!! It suddenly looks so long and it’s really flattering on you. x

    1. Poppy's Style Post author

      Cole Haan is beautiful and great quality – and you make a good point – we ALWAYS have sales on here. There is a sale for every holiday and often the prices are cheaper than the outlets…Glad you like the hair – I have a way to go yet though:) x

  10. GlamRosie

    I am loving your fringe Joanna, your hair is looking fab. I always just assume every things cheaper your side of the pond. If you go anywhere up North (Newcastle way) there is an amazing Barbour outlet, great prices. x

    1. Poppy's Style Post author

      Thank you Natalie! It is growing but feels like it has slowed a bit! My Husband has already located the outlet lol – he was trying to pack me off on a day trip to the NE! Not sure I can make THAT much effort for a coat for him 🙂 x

  11. Cous Cous and Cork Wedges

    Such a fab post Joanna! I haven’t been to The States in years & would love to go back! Victorias Secrets, New York Cheesecake & Almond Joys are my favs! 😉 Make sure you get some M&S fresh cream Victoria Sponge down your neck whilst you’re here! Ax

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  15. Kasey Anderson

    I realize this is a very old post, but I came across it when I was searching for what to buy while in the UK. I am taking a trip there soon and was wondering about brands that are cheaper there, specifically Barbour jackets. I’ve been wanting one so bad, but I cannot pay $400 ! Thanks so much !


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