In Part 2 we look at other items to buy in Sri Lanka i.e. things that are made here and/or reasonably priced.
Products Made in Sri Lanka
CLOTHING AND ACCESSORIES
The apparel industry is one of the largest industries in Sri Lanka. It employs around 15% of the island's workforce. It grew significantly in the 1980s and now accounts for about half the country's total exports. Exports are primarily to US and UK/Europe retailers.
As a result, locals and tourists can find some of these clothing items for sale in Sri Lanka, mainly in and around Colombo (as well as at some shops or outlets in larger towns outside of Colombo).
Tip - Be sure to check the clothing you wish to purchase carefully. Sometimes, you may have picked up a factory second. For example, I was looking at summer dresses and on close examination of one I liked, I noticed the fabric had been cut a little wonky. On another occasion, I found a minor mark or blemish on a t-shirt. Choose carefully. Furthermore, sometimes the size labels are incorrect or un-labelled so my tip would be to try the item before purchase.
Admittedly, shopping in Colombo is not an easy exercise when it comes to any kind of shopping because shops are quite geographically spread out.
With this in mind, if you're a tourist, there are only a limited number of other places to consider, especially if you have a short slot of time on your trip for retail therapy.
As a local, there are certain shopping hubs or locations to also consider, however, I find it time-consuming and also a bit of a "drive-shop-drive-shop experience".
Shopping Precincts and Complexes
No matter what anyone tells you, Colombo does not have a Westfield nor any massive shopping mall similar to what you would find in other capital cities around the world. However, there are three main shopping complexes in Colombo that house many little retail shops, some of which are a little hit-and-miss:
Barefoot, Odel LUV SL and Colombo Jewellery Stores. It is safe to say that shopping is limited at this spot.
Department Stores and Retailers
House of Fashion is a three-storey department store that sells womens, mens and childrens clothing, as well as other items for the home, toys, luggage and sporting goods. You will find branded items made in Sri Lanka (and sometimes made in India as well) here at discounted prices.
Brands I have come across include - Desigual, Tommy Hillfiger, Marks & Spencer labels, Next, DKNY, Calvin Klein, Gap, Banana Republic, H&M, Mango, Gloria Vanderbilt, Forever21 and many more. As a guideline, branded clothing sells for approximately: t-shirts Rs 550 to 850; blouses Rs 750 to 1,250; shorts 950 to 1,350; skirts Rs 950 to 2,500; dresses Rs 1,100 to 2,750.
Unfortunately, House of Fashion does not have fitting rooms readily available for trying on clothing. I usually try things on over my clothing, and check myself out in the mirrors scattered around the store.
This used to be quite popular as a shopping destination, and to an extent it still is, particularly with tourists and expats. However, it has become far less popular with local shoppers due to pricing and some of the quality of Odel-labelled clothing.
Odel is a department store that sells everything from home-wares, clothing, sari-bar, and sportswear to books, footwear, cosmetics and more. It's main store is located at 5 Alexander Place, Colombo 7 though it now has many outlets across the island. The main store is the place to visit as you'll find everything on offer there. A few outlets operate within Odel including Colombo Jewellery Stores and Foot Rub. Plus, there are small eateries around Odel, as well as Nihonbashi Restaurant and Delifrance cafe inside the main store.
Brands I have come across include - Billabong, Nike, H&M, Timberland, DKNY, Calvin Klein, Gap, Banana Republic, A&F, Marks & Spencer labels, White Stuff, Next, Zara, Desigual, and many more. Odel also stocks its own label plus some other local labels. As a guideline, clothing sells for approximately: t-shirts Rs 950 to 2500; blouses Rs 1,500 to 3,500; shorts 950 to 1,500; skirts Rs 1,250 to 2,500; dresses Rs 1,700 to 4,000.
The main Cotton Collection store is located at 40 Flower Road, Colombo 7 with other outlets scattered around Colombo. It stocks a wide-range of good quality womens, mens and childrens clothing, swimwear and accessories made in Sri Lanka and India. It has some branded items as well as local brands. You can also find some funky and creative accessories here. Its sister store is Leather Collection, which is located at 26 Flower Road, Colombo 7. It is also stocked at the Cotton Collection store at Majestic City. It primarily retails leather goods including footwear and bags. Sri Lanka is not known for its leather goods, but this store has some interesting items.
Brands I have come across include - Hugo Boss, Armani, Nike, Superdry, Adidas, Van Heusen, Jockey and more.
This store is located at 438 R.A. De Mel Mawatha, Colombo 03 and has other outlets. Beverly Street sells primarily sells womens, mens and childrens clothing and accessories. There are also other items, such as luggage, footwear and leather goods available. Items are mainly sourced from Sri Lanka and India.
This store is located at 361, R.A. De Mel Mawatha, Colombo 03 and sells a range of eastern and western wear for ladies and gents at affordable prices. Amongst the Colombo crowd it is known for its exquisite sarees, designer bridal-wear and intricately designed shalwars, kurtha and churidas. The mens range is also quite popular with plenty to choose from.
Aviraté is an international high-street fashion label offering a range of womens clothes and accessories. The Aviraté range includes an extensive selection of day and evening wear, lingerie, shoes, bags and accessories. It flagship store is located at 30, Maitland Crescent, Colombo 7, with other stores around Colombo, including one behind the Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct and Cinnamon Lakeside Shopping Arcade.
Mango has a store located at 1/1 Bagatalle Road, Colombo 3. It stocks the latest range of Mango clothing, footwear and accessories for women. Stock is largely sourced from Sri Lanka and India. Prices are generally considered cheaper when compared to the pricing in Asia and Europe, although it sits at a generally higher price point for locals.
Sri Lanka is not known for its footwear and therefore, it can be a little on the pricier side compared to its clothing and other accessories. Apart from some of the department stores already listed, there are a few other retail stores that stock footwear that is good for mostly warmer climates - casual and formal.
This is footwear retailer with stores at 20B Lauries Place, R A De Mel Mawatha, Colombo 4; 240 Galle Road, Mount Lavinia; and 125A, S D Jayasinghe Mawatha, Kohuwala, Nugegoda. They have a good range of on-trend footwear at affordable prices.
This is footwear retailer with stores at L-26 1st Floor, Crescat Boulevard, Colombo 3 and G-27 Ground Floor, Majestic City, Colombo 4. It stocks a small range of casual and formal footwear.
Odel and Barefoot, already mentioned above, both sell books and have a good selection of them.
In addition, there are a few other stores to check out.
Vijitha Yapa Bookshop
The bookshop located at Crescat is worth a look. They have a fairly good range of books and usually stock the latest bestsellers. They also stock a decent range of magazines, reference books and other local titles. There is another store located next to Majestic City, on the ground floor of Unity Plaza. This also has a decent range of books, though not as extensive.
Liberty Plaza - very tiny bookshop
I don't know the name of this bookshop except for the fact that it takes up a very tiny space in Liberty Plaza, and all you can do is look at the titles through the small opening and through the glass windows. It seems to stock the latest paperbacks and popular fiction and non-fiction titles. Prices are reasonable. Note - it is not the Lakehouse bookshop which is also at Liberty Plaza.
DVDs AND CDs
Colombo has many small retailers scattered all over the capital selling entertainment (movies, music, documentary, animation etc) DVDs and CDs. Many of these come from other parts of Asia and you get all kinds of quality depending on which titles you are interested in. Many people are interested in the latest movie titles and boxsets of TV series. The best places to visit for these are around Liberty Plaza and Majestic City.
GADGETS & ELECTRONICS
Sri Lanka is not really the place to shop-shop for electronics and gadgets. This is more the case for when you visit Sout-East Asia. Well, this is what I think. However, if you are looking to compare prices and do a bit of shopping for these items then there are a few places to consider. If you're already having a shop at Majestic City and Liberty Plaza, check out some of the gadget and electronic stores there. There are many other shops scattered around Colombo, so bear in mind I'm not providing an exhaustive list.
Unity Plaza is known as Sri Lanka's I.T. mall as it houses many shops selling a vast range of I.T. software, hardware and accessories. If you're looking for anything I.T. related it's a safe bet to visit Unity Plaza, which is located on Galle Road adjacent to Majestic City in Bambalapitiya.