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How shopping stacks up in 10 major US cities

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March 28, 2023
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This story originally appeared on CouponBirds and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

How shopping stacks up in 10 major US cities

In-store shopping across the U.S. is making a comeback after the COVID-19 pandemic thwarted many opportunities for shoppers. In May 2022, in-store sales grew 13.4% from May 2021 levels, according to CNN. With the pressures of inflation, consumers want more social interaction and fewer delivery charges.

But where are the best places to go shopping in person?

Cities such as Los Angeles, New York City, or Chicago offer shoppers the usual staples such as shopping malls, farmers markets, and unique boutiques that sell local designers' clothes or great gift ideas. Other cities are expanding their offerings, such as Boston and Houston, where new stores are opening or have already opened their doors for business.

Other shopping destinations target tourists and levy a steep sales tax. For example, New Orleans and Seattle levy over 9% sales tax for goods. "Overall, the average combined state and local sales tax is 6.57%," according to an AARP report comparing U.S. states' sales taxes. However, Philadelphia, arguably a tourist city for its historical landmarks, does not levy a sales tax on clothes or shoes.

CouponBirds used data from the Census Bureau, city and state governments, news coverage, and other resources to compare shopping cultures and trends across 10 major U.S. cities.

Shoppers walking down a busy New York street.
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New York

Retail shopping in New York City—in areas such as SoHo, Union Square, Greenwich Village, or Times Square—is a very important economic source for the city. With a 2021 population of 8.47 million residents, the taxable retail sales jumped from $48.8 billion in 2021 to $62.3 billion in 2022. For most retail sales, the total tax rate is 8.875%, including local and state levies.

New, experimental ways of selling goods are getting a trial run in New York City. "In 2023, the trend for concept stores is the digital transformation of brick-and-mortar stores," according to Behavior Analytics Retail. For example, Nike offers a shopping app that helps people choose and find the best shoes or a gift for someone else. Shoppers can also scan their feet, upload the data to the app, and have custom shoes shipped to their homes.

Retailers from other cities are also expanding to New York, with LA landmark Cult Gaia arriving in SoHo. Other stores offer customers services beyond just selling items. For instance, Nordstrom offers a high-end restaurant as well as bars—one called Shoe Bar, tucked away in its basement full of shoes. And American Girl has an interactive and innovative location at Rockefeller Plaza, with hair styling, ear piercing, and manicures.

People and rides at the entertainment center at the Mall of America.
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With 40 million visitors to the Mall of America each year, the Minneapolis outlet offers 500 retail stores and hundreds of events for locals and tourists alike. There's even a theme park with roller coaster rides. The mall recycles more than 60% of its waste, doesn't have central heating, uses over 30,000 live plants as air purifiers, and offers electric vehicle charging stations.

Shopping in Minneapolis may also take visitors to local thrift shops or farmers markets. Women may find trendy indie wear or jewelry, and men may find sophisticated clothes, shoes, or T-shirts. Most farmers markets are seasonal and only open on the weekends, although one is open during the week.

The city, which has 425,336 residents as of 2021, saw $5.3 billion in taxable retail sales in 2020. The local sales tax rate—including state, county, and city taxes—is 7.525%.

People wearing masks shopping for plants and flowers at an outdoor market.
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Liu Guanguan/China News Service //Getty Images

San Francisco

San Francisco offers a wide variety of shopping choices throughout the city. Local Take, for example, sells unique handmade gifts and San Francisco-inspired items. There's also San Francisco Mercantile, which sells over 100 different items from local makers and designers.

Fillmore Street, Japantown, Mission District, and Haight Street are great shopping districts with their own local flair. The Westfield San Francisco Centre, Union Square, Pier 39, and Hayes Valley also offer a range of name-brand and boutique stores. For food shopping, Heart of the City Farmers Market is a farmer-run nonprofit outfit with plenty of fresh and organic options.

The city of 815,000 had $11.1 billion in taxable retail sales in 2021. The total sales tax rate in San Francisco is 8.625%.

Local artisans selling at a market.
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New Orleans

New Orleans is a tourist city, especially when Mardi Gras season and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival come around. Carnival season and Mardi Gras offer tourists a glimpse into the spirit of New Orleans but also shopping extravaganzas for the parades. At Jazz Fest, local and nationally known craft vendors showcase art, clothing, festival posters and more.

There are many shopping options during the year, too, such as the French Market, Magazine Street, or the Riverwalk outlets. The French Market is one of the oldest markets in New Orleans and offers a wide range of souvenirs, gifts, local products, and artwork. Don't forget to stop by Cafe Du Monde for some beignets, cafe au lait, or a hot chocolate. Magazine Street sells international clothing, local art, and pottery. The Riverwalk outlet is a mall that sells items from national and international brands, such as Kate Spade, for a more commercial feel.

In this city of 377,000 people, the sales tax rate is 9.45%, including state and county taxes. In the French Quarter, there is an additional surcharge to pay for additional police patrols, for a total tax rate of 9.695%.

A person carrying several shopping bags with Christmas decorations in the background.
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Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe // Getty Images


Boston, a city of 655,000, offers sophisticated style for shoppers, especially on Newbury Street. There are outlets and other retail centers at Copley Place, 100 Huntington Avenue, or Downtown Crossing. Tourist attractions and even more shopping are at Prudential Center or Faneuil Hall Marketplace. For fresh produce, try the open-air Haymarket.

The state's sales tax rate is 6.25%, and there is no additional local or county sales tax.

Bundled up shoppers walking downtown in Chicago.
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Chicago shopping offers visitors and locals a luxurious treat at the Oak Street District, where shoppers can choose from Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, or Chanel. For one-of-a-kind boutiques, try Vince, St. John Knits Boutique, or Tod's. For more boutique shopping, try the Lincoln Park, Hyde Park, or Andersonville neighborhoods. The Magnificent Mile is famous for its 450 retailers, including flagship and department stores, boutiques, and innovative technology. There's the Green City Market for fresh produce and baked bread and a few thrift stores.

In this city of 2.7 million, the local, county, state, and special sales taxes add up to a rate of 10.25%.

Hollywood streets at sunset lined with palm trees and crowded with people.
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Los Angeles

Shopping in LA can be an adventure in luxury boutiques, grand-scale retail stores, and trendy rock 'n' roll shops. Nearby Beverly Hills is home to the famous Rodeo Drive, part of the so-called Golden Triangle that offers high-end shopping from Missoni, Gucci, and Burberry, among many other high-end brands. Sunset Strip, called "The Strip," showers shoppers with various restaurants, hotels, and amazing clothing and accessory options.

It's almost impossible to completely encompass all the options in this city of 3.9 million, with sales from household-name designers to the most exclusive boutiques. When you need a break, try Hollywood Farmers Market in the Fairfax District for fresh produce, and find Your Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen for refreshments from a Black-owned business in downtown LA.

The 2021 population was 3.85 million, and the total local sales tax rate is 9.5%.

The Galleria Mall with an ice skating rink at the bottom decorated with Christmas trees and crowded with shoppers.
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Brandon Bell // Getty Images


Posh shoppers in Houston can visit fancy stores like those from Elizabeth Anthony, I W Marks Jewelers, or Abejas Boutique. To get ready to make an entrance at a fancy event, try some of the luxury brands at the Galleria mall or in the River Oaks District. There's plenty to eat, too, from all sorts of culinary and ethnic traditions.

The city of 2.3 million has a total local sales tax rate of 8.25%.

Patrons at a gourmet Italian market.
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Mall shoppers can head to the Fashion District Philadelphia, Market Street, or The Shops at Liberty Place. But to shop like a local, try the Bourse, Fabric Row, or Chestnut Hill neighborhoods for tree-lined streets of boutiques. Rittenhouse Row is Philly's five-star destination, and West Market Parkway District is more residential, with newer shops opening for the growing population. Old City offers other boutiques like Vagabond and Sugarcube. The 68-year-old shopping center Bala Cynwyd is getting an $8 million facelift.

The city of 1.6 million has a total local sales tax rate of 9%, but there's no sales tax on most clothes or shoes.

People exploring the Ballard farmers market.
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Many people think of Pike Place Market or Capitol Hill for Seattle-inspired gifts and funky boutiques, but there are other quirks to this lively shopping town. The Refind Closet, a new resale store in the Madison Park neighborhood, gives shoppers previews of new-to-you items in live fashion shows on Instagram.

In the Ballard neighborhood, shoppers will find fashion boutiques, vintage stores, a farmers market, and home goods and gifts. Sundays on Ballard Avenue showcases local vendors' baked goods, meats, and apparel. For mall shoppers, try Pacific Place, Westlake Center, or University Village.

The city of 715,000 has a total local sales tax rate of 10.25%.

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