A belated Happy New Year to everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful time. I’m really sad that the holidays are over, I’ve had a great time seeing my family and hanging out in New York. I love New York, it’s such a great city and an amazing place to shop for beads. I’m very jealous of the locals who get to shop there all the time. There are countless stores, endless aisles and every colour, size and shape you can imagine. I got so overly excited at the sight of all the beads that on reflection I wish I had planned my shopping trip abit better. So, based on my experiences I thought I’d put together this useful survival guide with my top tips for anyone who is planning a bead shopping trip to New York’s garment district…
Tip 1: Plan Ahead – You will save huge amounts of time and money if you know what you want in advance. Make a list or set a budget and try your best to stick to it. If you like to browse then try to set yourself a time limit for each store otherwise you can loose hours of your day (especially if like me you need to look at every last thing) and be strict about the items you need.
Tip 2: Dress Accordingly – Scouring the aisles is tiring and dirty work. You’ll need to reach up high, crouch down low and bend over tables. Your hands and clothes will get dirty so leave your best outfit at home and wear comfortable shoes to wander from store to store. You might also want to bring a hand wipe or two if you’re a bit OCD like me!
Tip 3: Start Early – not only does time fly when you’re browsing beads stores but I found that the stores were less busy early afternoon and if it’s a weekday even better, everyone else will be at work or in school. In some of the smaller stores you’re likely to be the only customer so you can ask all the questions you like.
Tip 4: Don’t take it Personal – You’ll be used to getting great customer service in New York so you might be a little shocked when you enter some bead stores (particularly larger ones like Toho Shoji & Bead Center) and aren’t greeted, smiled at or acknowledged in any way, but don’t take it personally. Beads and findings are easily slipped into bags and pockets and staff are constantly on the look out for thieves, so prepare to be watched & followed closely. It can be off putting, especially for those of us who like to take our time browsing and touching stuff (I have to admit that I’m a toucher, I like to feel the weight and texture of a bead). My advice is to smile, say hello (that way they know that you know they’re watching) and just continue to shop. When they’re satisfied you’re not trying to steal anything they usually leave you alone.
Tip 5: Travel Light – If possible, leave your bags (and your children) at home. As I said, stores are constantly on the look out for thieves and bags, strollers and young children all put staff on alert. One store I visited had a sign asking people not to open bags or purses in the store. In another, I watched staff go into near meltdown when a family with 3 young children walked through the door. If you have to carry a purse make it a small one and if you’re shopping with your kids don’t let them run wild in the aisles.
Tip 6: Shop Around – Most stores do not offer any refunds or exchanges so make sure that you are totally happy before you purchase. I suggest you shop around abit, go to the smaller stores where you may find cheaper items (some of the larger stores can be quite pricey) or be able to negotiate a small discount. It’s also worth making a note of the items you like and the price so that you can cross reference in other stores.
And the most important tip – have fun! Everyone’s shopping experiences are different so I won’t tell you to avoid any one store as I think you should try them all. My personal favourites are the ones tucked away on W37th St between 5th & 6th, City Beads (lovely staff), Exquisite Beads (amazing selection of semi precious beads) and a couple that I can’t remember the names where I received great service and a discount! I also have to mention Beads World on Broadway which has the most amazing selection of chains I’ve ever seen!! – Happy Shopping!!
I haven’t had a chance to photograph my purchases yet, once I do I’ll put them up for you to see – until next time x