So the Irish are flocking back to New York to do their Christmas shopping? Apparently, and according to research by Expedia.ie, there’s an 84 per cent rise in Irish bookings to the Big Apple over the festive period. But what do we do when we get there?
Just as it has been next to impossible to get anyone to admit that they actually went mad during the Celtic Tiger, even though it's common knowledge that we "all lost the run of ourselves", it's equally difficult to get anyone to admit that they are planning to sleep four to a room in Fitzpatrick's (fitzpatrickhotels.com), spend two days outlet shopping at Woodbury Common (premiumoutlets.com) and then head to the nearest Irish bar of an evening to let the credit card cool down again.
Just back from New York myself I promise, hand on heart, I did none of these things. Well, there was one Irish bar, but that was by accident – it was in Greenwich Village, and well disguised.
And there's something about the ubiquity of formerly impossible to find American products in Ireland that takes some of the shine off. Even Victoria's Secret now has a branch at Dublin Airport, though obviously the range is far more limited than in its Manhattan mega-stores.
I did bring a large suitcase with not much in it, which returned stuffed to the gills. I always go to Anthropologie because it's just gorgeous. There's a London branch now, but it works out far more expensive, and the real joy of shopping in the New York store is the sale area downstairs (you'll find something similar in Abercrombie, if that floats your boat) and also the way the chirpy staff seem to find all your selections so delightfully clever and "awesomely amazing" – though that can become grating after a while.
A great deal of it is the adventure and the mystique. Yes, things are cheaper: you’ll make a saving of about €278 on an iPhone 6 Plus, and about 20 quid on a pair of designer sunglasses but add in flights, hotels and cocktails and it can hardly be considered a money-saving exercise. But it can be a whole lot of fun, and there are still places, such as the MoMA Design Store that can inspire.
With family living there, Anna Kenny goes regularly and has streamlined her shopping. "I order online from Gap and The Children's Place and have it delivered so it's waiting for me when I arrive. Web prices can be far less expensive, and it takes the trekking round out of it," she says.
If you’re not staying with friends or family in New York, check with your hotel that they’re happy to accept deliveries – getting things delivered within the US saves you from Revenue’s import charges, unless you’re stopped on your return to Dublin or Shannon that is.
“I’ll still go to Bloomingdales and Macy’s,” Kenny says, “because you can’t beat them for range and value.”
Head to the seventh floor on Macy’s to pick up a card that lets you off the New York sales tax, which can be a killer blow at the checkout otherwise. Also look out for daily vouchers in The New York Times.
Kenny agrees that the arrival of many brands in Ireland has changed her New York shopping habits: “Century 21 has been less of a draw since TK Maxx arrived.”
But there are still some elusive treats that will make your loved ones love you even more if you track them down in Manhattan. These include American Girl dolls, beloved of girls from 6 to 12, and groovy fitness garb from Lululemon in town or a Woodbury Common schlep away.