Shopping in Australia offers something for everyone, including international visitors and migrants who are more accustomed to shopping differently in their home countries. Once you’ve been in the country for a while, you may find that you completely change the way you like to shop. It could be because of the type of stores you prefer or how close you live to different amenities.
Even if you’ve never shopped online before, you might discover that online shopping in Australia is easy and enjoyable.
Most cities and towns have their own fresh food markets. Sometimes they might otherwise be called farmers’ markets, local markets or growers’ markets. Some are only open one or two days a week whereas others, such as the Queen Victoria Markets in inner city Melbourne are open five days a week.
What you’ll mostly find at markets is fresh fruit and vegetables, herbs, flowers, bread, pot plants, eggs, meats and fish and artisanal foods like honey, home cured meats, home-made jams, preserved olives and the like. You can negotiate on pricing at some markets and in many cases, it’s encouraged.
You’ll find a vast variety of products from any number of different cultures at markets so look around and you may find some of the items you miss from home.
The two major grocery retailers, Coles and Woolworths, are the stores where most people do their household shopping. In recent years, other competitors have been attracting more customers to their stores. Aldi is renowned for its much cheaper household staples such as milk, bread, eggs, sugar, toilet paper, laundry detergent and other necessities.
They also have an interesting range of ‘special offers’ that change on a week by week basis and can include furniture, ski wear, toys, bath towels, calendars, electronics, barbecues and lots of other random products. Aldi customers love to see what’s new and some drop in every week for the special offers then shop for groceries while there.
There are also independent stores that stock much of the same range as the majors but they offer more Australian-made products too. In particular, there is the IGA (Independent Grocers of Australia) chain which you’ll find in cities and regional locations, just like Coles, Woolworths and Aldi.
When you go grocery shopping in Australia, you take a trolley from the front of the store and load it with your purchases. You can either have the checkout operator process your sale for you or you can operate a self-service checkout if you have a small number of items. When grocery shopping in these stores, you are not permitted to bargain or haggle on prices.
Do you ever find that you spend more than you meant to when you go grocery shopping? That’s because when you’re in a store, you are faced with lots of tempting products that you don’t actually need. When you shop for groceries online, however, these ‘impulse purchases’ are easier to avoid.
You simply choose from the categories, select the products you want, add them to your online shopping cart, enter your delivery date/time and check out. You can pay with your credit card or debit card online or when the groceries are delivered, and you can even use your EFTPOS card upon delivery too.
Online grocery shopping involves a delivery fee but it’s possible to save a great deal of time because you don’t have to leave the house, walk around the store, load the groceries into your car, drive home and then unload them again. You can shop online with Coles and Woolworths.
It might seem that shopping is a national pastime in Australia if you see how many malls we have here. Some of them are so big that they’re called supermalls, megamalls and even hyperdomes. Chadstone in Melbourne is the largest shopping centre in the southern hemisphere! It currently boasts 530 stores and over 9,300 car parking spaces.
If you’ve come from a small town where the local market is the meeting point for the community, where you can speak to the grower about his apples or potatoes and where you can easily drop by every day to pick up fresh ingredients for dinner, Australia’s shopping malls can be very overwhelming.
You might prefer to shop in a smaller shopping centre or in ‘marketplace’-style centres where all the stores can be entered independently without going into a main building. The best idea is to choose where you will live based on the facilities that are in the area, otherwise you might have to travel further to shop where you feel most comfortable.
Most major cities and some smaller ones enjoy great cultural diversity. Depending on the composition of nationalities in the area, there will be many stores that specifically suit. Chinatown is a worldwide concept and you’ll find one in all the major cities of Australia except Hobart, plus in regional areas including the Gold Coast, Ballarat and Creswick.
Some locales have large populations of Koreans, Vietnamese, Japanese and other Asian cultures and shopping facilities often reflect these cultures. An example is Sunnybank Plaza in Brisbane, where you’ll find an abundance of retailers selling authentic Asian foods (ingredients and ready-to-eat) that make their customers feel at home.
Some areas have large populations of people of Arabic and Middle Eastern descent. Lakemba in Sydney was heavily populated by Lebanese migrants in the 1970s and today, is considered to be a predominantly Arab and Muslim suburb and is home to Australia’s largest mosque. Similarly, a lot of the stores there cater for the locals’ food and clothing requirements.
In South Australia, the German township of Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills is serviced by an IGA and a variety of smaller, artisanal retailers that sell authentic German foods. Darwin in the Northern Territory is “arguably Australia’s most cosmopolitan city” that boasts a population of more than 60 nationalities and 70 different ethnic backgrounds. As such, the retail environment caters for a rainbow of cultural needs.
Shopping in Australia stretches across all affordability spectrums. We have our discount stores where you can buy a huge range of homewares, clothing, food products, hardware items, toiletries and so much more, at bargain prices. But then we also have the elite international fashion and jewellery brands such as Versace, Burberry, Tiffany & Co. and Cartier. In between, there are countless boutique and chain retailers selling everything you can think of.
No matter where you go shopping in Australia, cash is still welcome almost everywhere. Increasingly, though, electronic methods of payment are being encouraged. You can use your credit card, debit card, EFTPOS card and sometimes even cheques though those are gradually being phased out.
Given the country’s wonderful multiculturalism, you may even find that when you go shopping in Australia, the shopkeeper speaks your language!