The United Kingdom is a multicultural nation with many international business opportunities so that you can feel right at home. Regardless of the destination you choose in many countries, you can quickly identify the main street of any small or medium-sized city with its ever-more diverse variety of stores: beauty products, nutritional supplements and medicines, lush for organic products, cosmetic products; HMV for music and entertainment; Topshop for fashion friends and John Lewis for home lovers.
If you’re looking for independent boutiques, specialty stores or high-end designers, there are plenty of travel guides that focus on shopping in the UK. Our general view of shopping has a different purpose: this guide informs newcomers, where they can quickly collect food, packaged food, and household items for their daily needs.
“The big four” supermarkets
The easiest way to shop in the UK is to find a nearby branch of The Big Four. The term refers to the largest supermarket chains in the country, which together account for almost 75% of the market share of grocery purchases in the UK. These four retailers are:
- Asda (525 shops)
- Morrisons (more than 500 stores)
- Sainsbury’s (over 1,370 stores)
- Tesco (over 3,500 stores across the country)
Depending on location and size, these stores sell not only snacks, groceries, personal care products, over-the-counter medicines, and house-wares but also other areas that offer stationery items, clothing, electronic products and service phones, furniture, gas, and finance; services and even public services, some of which are online only. You can also order and receive your food online.
While small grocery stores, such as Sainsbury’s Local, are generally found in urban centers, you should look for wholesale markets like Tesco Extra. The location of these supermarkets is in major shopping centers, and often have pharmacies in the shops, a butcher or bakery for fresh meat and pastries, household appliances, home improvement, gardening tools and more.
Another popular business for purchasing in bulk is the American company, Costco. Twenty-eight stores across the UK offer everything from seafood to furniture, from opticians to car services in some stores.
Other popular grocery stores
Of course, the four companies mentioned above are not the only food retail chains in the United Kingdom. The big four now compete with continental imports like the German supermarkets Aldi and Lidl.
In the higher price range, you go to the Marks & Spencer’s Food Hall (colloquially referred to as M&S) or to the next Waitrose, who has the royal mandate to deliver to Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Carlos. Your “essential” budget also means that you can enjoy high-quality products without having to put them in your pockets.
The “Big Four” also offer their valuable brands such as M Savers or Asda Smart Price, which can contribute to reducing the cost of living. Iceland, another business chain, is also known for its affordable convenience and frozen products.
Special dietary requirements
British supermarkets are extremely accommodating with customers having special nutritional needs, and major UK supermarket chains offer many alternative foods that meet allergies, religion, and ethical standards. The big supermarkets such as the “Big Four” above offer a selection of gluten-free bread and alternatives to cow’s milk for customers with lactose intolerance. For example, Sainsbury’s “Deliciously Freefrom” range offers gluten-free gingerbread, while Waitrose offers Swedish milk-free ice cream and gluten-free soy sauce. The options available are endless.
In British supermarkets, it has become the norm to offer vegan substitutes for everyday products such as pesto, cheese, and meat. In particular, the vegetarian alternative to beef, Quorn, is sold in large grocery stores and often offers a complete range of Quorn in various ways, such as hamburgers and sausages.
Department stores and home furnishings
In addition to buying food, you may need to purchase electronic equipment, kitchen appliances, furniture, cutlery, or other household items. Department stores like Debenhams, quite common, or an easy trip to one of the 20 IKEA stores in the UK are probably the easiest solution.
BHS or British Home Store is yet another cost-conscious owner’s alternative and is slightly cheaper than Fraser House or John Lewis warehouses.
The charm of charity shops
If you have a limited budget, visit the Charity Retail Association Store Finder. Charity stores are trendy in the UK. These are second-hand shops run by non-profit organizations and run by volunteers who sell donated items.
A typical charity shop sells clothing, toys, household linen, china, and costume jewelry, but some also sell furniture and electronic equipment. Charity libraries in university towns are an excellent place to buy used books in the UK or get rid of your library before you go home.
There are a few charity shops on virtually every major UK street. Oxfam is a popular organization committed to poverty eradication in developing countries. There is an online store where you can pick your favorite designer while you search for your clothes.
If you live in London, most charity shops in central London have fantastic designer clothing. Get a bargain at the Marylebone High Street and St. John’s Wood charities. If you are looking for second-hand shops to buy vintage clothing, remember that you need a size converter to purchase clothing in the UK.