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(2016 - Fall/Winter Issue)


Even if we’re not looking to buy something, time spent browsing through shops, vendors’ kiosks and market stalls away from home is an illuminating window into local culture. During such times we are likely to find a meaningful souvenir, the value of which is not measured only by cost, but also by circumstance.

Take the story, for example, of a now-favourite ski jacket that had to be purchased in Arizona when the visitor found out there are, indeed, February snowstorms in the higher elevations of the sun-baked state. Or how about those theatre ticket stubs, now treasured because they were purchased in Covent Garden for My Fair Lady, the very London neighbourhood where the story is based? Or from Israel, the simplest menorah brought back home will always have a deeper meaning, similar to those one-dollar candles from Bethlehem. 

A different kind of emotion may also spring up, such as the utter thrill that comes from bargain hunting for luxuries and essentials on a shop-’til-you-drop excursion. Everything one brings back, after all, is a chosen souvenir.

Destination shopping trips, you may have noticed, are not in short supply. Mega-mall entertainment complexes are now a worldwide phenomenon, indeed with the prototype West Edmonton Mall ( originating here in Canada, followed a decade later in Minnesota by Mall of America ( Here are a few other North American dazzlers worthy of your time:


Sales Tax: 13%


Just a few minutes’ walk from the Parliament Buildings, the Cadillac Fairview-managed Rideau Centre is finishing up a glamorous redevelopment and expansion to now include a four-level experience with new quartz flooring, enhanced lighting, glass guardrails as well as a movie theatre, hotel, rooftop garden and an indoor parking garage. Its exclusive lineup of 180 retailers now includes the arrival of Nordstrom. Right next door, the ByWard Market is one of Canada’s largest open-air city-centre bazaars with an abundance of lifestyle items.


Sales Tax: 13%


Just 30 minutes by subway (or highway) from any downtown location, Yorkdale’s interior makeover features a soaring 18-metre-high glass atrium with so many oversized, eye-popping accents, the entire decor lifts the spirits with one step inside. This year another wing opened on October 18 adding 30 new stores to its collection of 240 retailers—and this includes a 17,000-square-metre Nordstrom.


Sales Tax: 6% (groceries, clothing, prescription and non-prescription drugs are exempt)


Operated by retail giant Simon and accessible by transit, the King of Prussia Mall is located in a suburb of Philadelphia. Assuring shoppers of vast selections for every budget, under one roof and among almost 400 other retailers, you will find JC Penny, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, Lord & Taylor, Jimmy Choo shoes, plus three food courts and several sit-down restaurants featuring a variety of international cuisine.


Sales Tax: 6%


Located in McLean, Virginia, next door to Washington, D.C., this brand new shopping complex is just one component of the developer’s “mixed-use community.” Tysons is a futuristic model that consists of 300 top-in-class retailers and restaurants, the Hyatt Regency hotel, an office tower and high-rise apartments. It is connected to the D.C. “beltway” by subway and is owned and operated by Macerich.  


Sales Tax: 6%


With an array of impressive brands, Aventura Mall has it all. Anchored by Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s, the centre features more than 300 of the world’s most renowned retailers and a collection of luxury boutiques including Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Givenchy and Fendi. And Aventura Mall’s about to get even better. Scheduled to open in late 2017, a new expansion wing will showcase more restaurants, additional retail stores, a rooftop terrace and more. Inquire about the MasterCard Visitor Center and valet service for VIP recognition and access to special promotions.


The buying power of the Canadian dollar may not be the best, nor is it the worst it’s been in recent years. To determine the value of a deal south of the border, be sure to:

•          Add the exchange rate to any U.S. price tag. If on the day you shop, for example, the Canadian dollar is pegged at US $0.77, then an item priced at US$100 would equal CDN$130.

•          Consider the sales tax differential, as well, to determine the value of any deal. There is no federal sales tax in the USA, only state and municipal taxes. On average, therefore, the tax is roughly half that charged in Canada. Unlike Europe, it is not common for U.S. states to refund sales tax to tourists, but specifics in your destination are online at

•          Know the terms of your allowances, exemptions and duty-free tax ceiling for re-entering Canada. Visit

•          Buy items with a tag that proves they were made in the USA, Mexico or Canada. As long as those items are for personal use, they won’t affect your duty-free ceiling although you will have to pay the applicable GST/HST.

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