Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Retail therapy for intrepid travelers to Sri Lanka - Part 2

This is the second part of an earlier blog post published on 23 May 2013.
Retail therapy for intrepid travelers to Sri Lanka - Part 1 
Part 1 set out items to buy that Sri Lanka is well-known for, which includes Ceylon Tea, Gems, Spices and Traditional Handicrafts.

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:


Majestic City


One of the main multi-storey shopping complexes located on Galle Road in Bambalapittiya. It houses a cinema complex on its top floor, a variety of retail stores, a supermarket on the ground floor and a food court in the basement.  Most notable of the shops is Cotton Collection, Lakshmis, Odel outlet, Mlesna Tea Centre and a variety of entertainment shops selling CDs and DVDs.




Liberty Plaza


Another main multi-storey shopping complex located in Kolupitiya housing a variety of small size retail stores and a supermarket in the basement. There are an assortment of stores catering for women, men and children's fashion, as well as toys, electronics, entertainment, tea, books and more. Most notable of the shops is Cotton Collection, Leather collection, Lakehouse bookshop, Hameedias, Phot Technica, Antonio, Stone and String Jewellers, Alankara, Mlesna Tea Counter and a Tea Tang outlet. Dining options are limited at Liberty Plaza - Pizza Hut, Sugar & Spice, Roots

Crescat Boulevard


Crescat, as it is commonly referred to, is an up-market multi-storey shopping complex located next to the Cinnamon Grand Hotel on Galle Road in Kollupitiya. It has a variety of shops (though nowhere near as many as Majestic or Liberty) as well as a supermarket and food court in the basement. It isn't the best for shopping, but is handy if you're staying near the hotel. Most notable of the shops is Kadapatha (ladies fashion), Clarks (footwear), Mlesna Tea Centre, Prasanna Batiks, Hameedias (mens fashion), Backstage (accessories), and Vijitha Yapa Bookshop.


Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct


This was formerly the 17th century Colombo Dutch Hospital which has been transformed into a Colombo's shopping, dining and entertainment precinct. It houses restaurants, cafes and bars as well a few retail stores. These include outlets for 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


House of Fashion recently re-located to a megastore at No.101, D.S Senanayake Mawatha, Colombo 08. It reminds me a little of TK Maxx (UK) or TJ Maxx (US) when it comes to clothing and accessories. You have to dig around a bit to find what you like, but that's always part of the fun. Sometimes you'll find branded tags on, or otherwise they have been removed. My mother loved this store so that's a good sign.



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.

Odel


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.

Cotton Collection and Leather Collection 


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.

Seven Stories Ranjanas 


A department store located at 318 Galle Road, Bambalapitiya. According to its facebook page it "currently offers more than fifty international brands with a wide range of choice under one-roof where all the customers will have the privilege to do shopping for the whole family under one-roof". They also specialize in wedding bridal saris. Clothing is primarily made in Sri Lanka and India. This is definitely a pleasant shopping experience, however, purchases are often limited.

Brands I have come across include - Hugo Boss, Armani, Nike, Superdry, Adidas, Van Heusen, Jockey and more.

Barefoot


Barefoot is a retail store selling handmade products ranging from cloth, linen, toys, clothing, bags, items for the home, souvenirs, accessories and books. Many items are suitable for gifts to bring home. The flagship store is located at 706 Galle Road, Colombo 3, and it has another two stores - one at the Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct and another in Galle.


Beverly Street


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.


Gee Bees Designer Studio


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


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


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.


FOOTWEAR


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.

Saffans


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.

Lakshmi's


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.

Charles and Keith


Footwear and accessories brand, Charles& Keith, originates from Singapore and has recently opened a store in Colombo. It is located at 425, Galle Road, Colombo 3. They sell a wide array of designer footwear, handbags, wallets, belts, accessories and eyewear for women. Prices are on the high end for Sri Lanka. My advice to travelers is to make your purchases in Singapore or Malaysia, rather than in Sri Lanka, if you are stopping off there.



Other Products


BOOKS


Books sold in Sri Lanka are largely sourced from India, which makes them relatively cheaper than what you would pay for them abroad. Paperbacks generally retail from Rs 400 to 1,500 depending on the title. Boxsets are also available for popular book series. However, there are a limited number of book stores and the range is limited. However, you should be able to find the bestsellers and most popular books.

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


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.

Tabz


This store primarily sells tablets, mobile phones and gaming consoles. It has some of the latest leading brand offerings to hit the market. This includes Apple iPads & iPhones, Motorola Razr Phones & Xoom Tablets, Sony, Toshiba & ZTE, GPS Navigation Units & gaming consoles such as X Box, PS3s, Nintendo, 3Ds & Nintendo Wii. Tabz is located at 29, R.A De Mel Mawatha, Colombo 05, which is close to House of Fashion.

Photo Technica

Photo Technica is located at 288 Galle Road, Colombo 3. It sells a good range of cameras and is an authorized distributor for Nikon cameras. It also has showrooms at Majestic City and Liberty Plaza.


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