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Europe's Shopping Capitals

Consumers will find the best selection of retailers in these nine cities. Lauren Sherman writes.

world Updated: Aug 14, 2009 18:13 IST

Those with the stomach for spending on their fall wardrobes might head to London.

In the UK, the High Street--the main road in a neighborhood--is shopping mecca. In London, there are more High Streets than one can count, so it's no surprise the city hosts more than half the world's top retailers--chosen for their market share both in their home countries and abroad--including the young and trendy Topshop as well as high-end department stores like Liberty of London and Harvey Nichols.

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What's more, London's leasing regulations for real estate occupied by foreign-operated businesses are much more lenient than they are in, say, Mumbai, India, where foreign retailers are forbidden to directly open single-brand stores, according to Peter Gold, head of Europe, Middle East and Africa cross-border retail research at Los Angeles-headquartered CB Richard Ellis Group ( CBG - news - people ), a multinational real estate corporation. That means retailers like the Gap ( GPS - news - people ), Abercrombie & Fitch ( ANF - news - people ), Uniqlo and Urban Outfitters ( URBN - news - people ) have often used London as a launch pad for foreign expansion.

In Depth: Europe's Shopping Capitals

It also means that shoppers in London have the most options when it comes to browsing the world's top retailers. Indeed, 59.26% of the world's biggest and best stores are open for business in the city.

But other European cities, including Milan, Italy, Hamburg, Germany, and, of course, Paris, offer consumers options worthy of a few euros.

Behind the Numbers

To find the world's best cities for shopping, we turned to Gold, who co-authored CBRE's spring 2009 study "How Global Is the Business of Retail?" Gold and his colleagues mapped the global footprint of 280 of the world's top retailers across 67 countries, analyzing retail globalization at a city level.

Cities with the highest percentages of these top retailers--chosen for their market share both in their home countries and abroad--capped off the list. Retailers studied included restaurants, luxury goods purveyors and mass-market discounters. The only retailers not considered were automobile dealerships and manufacturers.

What they found was that the more options a shopper has, the more discerning he or she seems to be.

"London shoppers are most adventurous, full stop," says Jason Campbell, a personal stylist and founder of online fashion publication JC Report. Londoners' style is all over the map, and that's reflected in what the stores carry for the runway collections."

While London has its fare share of mass retailers, niche boutiques are peppered across the city, from Westbourne Grove to Shoreditch. For instance, Comme des Garçons designer Rei Kawakubo's Dover Street Market in Mayfair features hard-to-find designers like Anne Valerie Hash; Labour of Love in Islington stocks little-known labels such as Louis Amstrup.

Paris shoppers--with 49.79% of the world's top shops at their disposal--are similarly selective, though favorite boutiques tend to showcase French designers or those who show their collections during the city's Fashion Week, says Campbell. The latest shopping hot spot? Palais Royal in the first arrondissement, which hosts boutiques such as Stella McCartney, Rick Owens and Corto Moteldo.

Diane Pernet, a fashion journalist and author of the Where to Wear, Paris travel guide, suggests new vintage shop Bastien de Almeida as well as Maria Luisa, Colette and L'Eclaireur for those who love multi-brand boutiques. Designer Isabel Marant's boutique in the Marais is also a must-visit for fashionistas looking to add some Parisian ease to their wardrobe.

Outside Europe, popular shopping destinations include New York, Tokyo and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. While New York (hosting 46.91% of the world's top retailers) and Tokyo (38.68%) both offer tourists a greater selection of stores than any other city in their respective countries, Dubai's No. 4 ranking on the overall list--it boasts 45.68% of top retailers--is an indication that demand in the Middle East continues to grow.

For example, by 2010, American department store Bloomingdales, a branch of Macy's ( M - news - people ), will have opened up shop in Dubai. Along with a consumer demand for more brand names, the numerous malls and shopping centers popping up within Dubai make it easier for retailers--or their franchise partners--to acquire prime real estate at reasonable prices. "Access to real estate is key," says Gold.

Other emerging markets are also going strong, include Moscow--where, Campbell says, conspicuous consumption is still socially acceptable if you do indeed have the money to spend. Bottega? Bulgari? Balmain? If you're looking for luxury, Moscow's got it.

Le Form, the city's 10-year-old concept shop (a shop that carries many brands with complimentary aesthetics) stocks local couturiers as well as international favorites such as Derercuny, Maison Martin Margiela and Dries Van Noten. Even mass brands like Gap, Zara and H&M have expanded into a city still seemingly dedicated to conspicuous consumption.

European shoppers hoping for fruitful excursions abroad should pick their destinations wisely. Beijing and Hong Kong in China--where 50 new millionaires emerge every day, according to Dan Sontag, president of the global wealth management group at Merrill Lynch--each have a broad spectrum of retailers. In Beijing, they include department store Lane Crawford Shanghai Tang, which stocks Western clothes with an Asian flair, and the Place Mall, home to 40-plus luxury boutiques, including Givenchy, Prada and Stella McCartney. Hong Kong is home to brands like 3.1 Phillip Lim, Balenciaga and Thakoon. I.T--a chain boutique with an urban edge that's great for labels like A Bathing Ape, Cacharel and Raf Simons.

But brand names still lack a real presence in cities within India and Brazil. That's because these countries have stricter rules when it comes to foreign retailers operating businesses within their cities, regardless of whether or not it's through a franchise agreement. Both India and Brazil have strong domestic retail and luxury industries and don't want to cannibalize those sales, says Gold.

But not to worry, power shoppers. Gold also says that as the demand for global brands increases in these countries, so will their brick-and-mortar presence: "I think it will change," he says. "There is too much [financial] opportunity."

Until then, it may be best to save that would-be airfare and shop closer to home.

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