Shopping In Hawaii: The World's Best Retail Therapy

04 Sep 2015

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A good strong dose of retail therapy is seen as an integral part of travel for many Aussies. But as globalisation has advanced, the opportunities to make significant savings on genuine brands by shopping overseas have rapidly diminished, right? Wrong! There’s one destination that’s reasonably close, compact and a tropical paradise to boot, where Aussie travellers can still bag genuine big name bargains at a fraction of the RRP. Welcome to the shopaholic’s utopia that is Hawaii. To begin with, let’s talk economies of scale. We all know that brands cost less in the United States than they do in Australia, which is mainly due to population and demand. We have around 23 million potential customers; the USA has almost 320 million. And while Hawaii is only halfway across the Pacific – as a US state it still allows you to tap straight into that lovely mass market. Consequently there’s good shopping on offer across the islands, but the main event is definitely in and around Waikiki on Oahu. Here’s what’s in store, literally, for savvy shoppers.

Kalakaua Avenue is the main shopping strip, characterized by luxury retail outlets.

Kalakaua Avenue

Holidaymakers are not the only ones on a journey in Hawaii – so is the designer merchandise, as it makes its way down through a variety of retail levels. The journey begins in the high-end boutiques and emporiums along Waikiki’s palm-fringed and very chic Kalakaua Avenue. All the big brands have a presence here including Prada, Gucci, Hermes, Tiffany & Co etc. Expect to pay full price along this ritzy strip – but even that will probably be less than you’d pay back home.

Ala Moana Centre

Next stop, Ala Moana. Located at the eastern end of Waikiki, and with a convenient street trolley service to transport you there and back, this mega shopping mall is where most visitors end up at some point during their stay. Inside you’ll find all the brands that you just saw in the heart of Waikiki, but it’s more concentrated and therefore more competitive. Shoppers at Ala Moana are expecting to find the odd bargain and the retailers know it. So they start to discount their goods accordingly. Take your passport with you and collect a Macy’s Visitor Discount Card or 10% off at this popular mid-price department store. For other retailer promotions during your visit, or to find out what's new, visit Ala Moana Centre online.

Outlet shopping

For samples, seconds and last season’s unsold goodies the journey continues at the outlet malls outside Waikiki. Here you can really clean up with discounts ranging from 25 to 65 per cent. The most popular outlet centre is Waikele Premium Outlets – a 30 minutes drive from Waikiki. There’s a coach service, but be warned, it gets busy in the afternoon for the return journey so try and head back as early as you can. Having said that, there are around 50 designer outlet stores here with most of the major players present including Barneys New York, Coach, Banana Republic and Ralph Lauren. So you’ll need as much time as possible.


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Preparation is also the name of the game at Waikele. Visit Premium Outlets to check out the retailer promotions happening during your stay – and sign up for the VIP newsletter and coupon offers. Also check This Week Oahu in town for more coupons. Remember, the US is the home of the Extreme Couponing TV series, so don’t be afraid to hand over a fistful of those little fellas when you reach the checkout.

Discounted discounters

For even bigger discounts on still unsold designer brands, head for the discounted discount clearance centres like Ross Dress for Less. There are three Ross stores in Waikiki, but the best one is opposite Walmart behind Ala Moana. This is all about taking the time to sift through the racks in order to turn up a gold nugget. Clothing and shoes are organized by size rather than brand, which makes it easy to scan through the merchandise. Ross also does homewares and is particularly good for designer luggage and footwear. Check Ross Stores for more bargain-hunting tips.

Vintage and thrift

With all that excess designer fashion floating about, even thumbing through through secondhand or ‘thrift’ as it’s known in the States, can produce stellar results when shopping in Hawaii. There are lots of thrift options around Waikiki, but one name Aussies will be familiar with is Savers, which has two stores in Waikiki including one near the international airport. For quality vintage – and the quintessential Hawaiian shirt – visit tiny Barrio Vintage in Chinatown. Check their excellent website for details.

Interested in a Luxury Hawaiian Holiday? Take a look at our holiday packages to Hawaii here

Adam Ford

Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a Melbourne-based travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. Adam has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. He worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He also appears regularly as a travel commentator on Sky News Business Class.