Week 2: Shopping in Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires Travel Blog› entry 11 of 17 › view all entries
The various stores in Buenos Aires are an interesting example of supply and demand. Who would ever have imagined you could be successful owning an entire store whose merchandise are hangers? Or how successful can you truly be selling umbrellas in months of very little rain? Unlike in the United States where the art of one stop shopping has been perfected such that every metropolitan neighborhood need venture only to a grocery store and Target or Walmart to obtain the supplies needed for daily life, Buenos Aires believes in specialization.
Consider a random but typical American grocery store list:
Any American Krogers or Publix (both are likely located within a ten minute drive of your house) would carry all of these things. Here, in Buenos Aires, it’s a different story. The only items on that list the Disco or Eki would likely carry are the milk and bananas, but the bananas are most likely cheaper and of better quality at a produce stand in the city. For the granola you need visit a health food store located nearly on every block. For the scotch tape you would need visit a packaging store or perhaps a hardware store. The cough drops are sold at the pharmacies, the flowers at little kiosks, and the AA Batteries at a little window in the wall shop that sells an odd variety of things. Your simple 1 stop shopping has turned into five or six stops. In the reality of Buenos Aires, this isn’t very difficult, though, because on the walk from your home or work to the grocery store you would likely pass at least one of all of these other stores, if not more.
Because of these small stores, shopping is everywhere in Buenos Aires. You cannot walk between two destinations without passing clothing stores, boutiques selling scarves and jewelry, newspaper stands, bakeries, flower stands, window kiosks, health food stores, and so much more. In fact, the number of clothing stores in this city is mind boggling. Most are small, crowded, and intimate, but every neighborhood I have walked through, with the exception of San Telmo, has had extensive clothing boutiques. The style of the store varies on your location in Buenos Aires with the more elegant and expensive stores residing in Retiro and Recoleta while near the university the stores are tiny, displaying all of their merchandise in their windows (sometimes, literally, filled with hundreds of pairs of underwear or bras). The more crowded stores encourage shopping by number: you stand on the sidewalk and look through the glass windows at all of the clothing and write down the number of the article you like. You then tell the salesperson the number and size of the article and you’re good to go. This puts a totally new spin on the phrase “window shopping.”
Whether you intend to or not, it is impossible to leave Buenos Aires without venturing into the shopping world, because every day it’s right outside your front door.