Home: The Bahamas: Nassau, Cable Beach & Paradise Island: Shopping in downtown Nassau, Bahamas
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Shopping in downtown Nassau, Bahamas

Explore the historic downtown core and find excellent bargains on local crafts and luxury designer goods at duty-free prices


There are at least three good reasons to go shopping along historic Bay St in downtown Nassau: a range of top-quality products, including the world’s best-known designer brands, duty-free bargains (prices on many items are a third less than you would pay in the US), and service (sales staff in the shops along Bay St are friendly, knowledgeable and helpful).

Add to that the world-famous Straw Market, historic buildings on either side, intriguing side streets and cul-de-sacs and interesting little restaurants where you can rest your feet, enjoy a tasty lunch or a cold beer and watch the passing parade.

Although it is still in temporary quarters after a fire destroyed the Straw Market a few years ago, the makeshift one near the British Colonial Hilton hotel is still an interesting place to visit.

Straw work has always been, and still is, a women’s preserve. Most plait comes to Nassau in 10 ft rolls from the Family Islands. It is then finished into the hats and bags you see for sale.

Four other places to see Bahamian handicrafts include Festival Place on Prince George Wharf, (woodwork and handicrafts by top artisans); Da Culture Place, upstairs at Charlotte St north and Woodes Rogers Walk (affordable Bahamian crafts, dinnerware, Bahamian music); Josephine’s Treasures at Colony Place Arcade off Bay St (art gallery, gifts, crafts and souvenirs); and Third Eye Artworks & Collectibles on East St (authentic Bahamian artwork by local craftsmen and artists).

If you’re looking for Bahamian body-pampering products, My Ocean Body & Home, on Charlotte St just off Bay, offers a wide range of products, including the My Ocean Spa Collection of locally made soaps, scents, lotions and candles.

Georgia Russell, manager of Crown Jewellers, sums up the answer to that question rather nicely: “better prices, better shopping, more selection, more variety and more luxury” than you will find anywhere else in Nassau or even in New York, for that matter. Bay St’s luxury shopping “is second to none,” says Russell. “Not even Fifth Ave can compare.”

Crown Jewellers specializes in diamonds. “We are a diamond store and diamonds are very popular just now, especially since they are now so affordable. We have the affordable to the fantastic,” Russell says, laughing. Her diamonds come from South Africa and are cut and set in Belgium.

“Bay St as a whole has been a standard attraction in Nassau for many years,” adds a sales manager at the Quantum/Colombian Emeralds International (CEI) stores on Bay St.

Even if you have only a few hours to spare, a stroll down this one avenue is an opportunity to see the town and the great variety of goods available: from souvenirs and postcards in the inexpensive shops to, for example, the huge selection of luxury items at CEI.

“We have all kinds of jewellery at CEI,” says the manager, with a special emphasis on Colombian emeralds. As for watches, “Seiko and Citizen are the most popular, among the less expensive brands. And at the high end, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Tag Heuer” are selling well this season, he said.

Why visit Bay St? “Because it is more exciting (than staying in your hotel),” says Diane McCartney, senior manager of the Brass & Leather and Fendi stores on Charlotte St, just off Bay. “Everybody wants to see the downtown area.”

At press time, business was picking up after a slow summer, says McCartney, who finds that “people feel a little freer to spend nowadays.” She adds that shoppers drop into her stores because “we’re experts in leather goods, we’ve been around for 41 years and we have excellent products.”

Brass & Leather features gifts for men and women, including handbags, shoes, scarves and accessories by Land, Furla, Kipling and Tumi, among others. The most popular items in her stores this season “are belts and small leather goods such as wallets, driver’s licence cases and passport cases,” says McCartney.

For something very different, stop by the Bahama Hand Prints store and factory owned by Joie Lamare and Linda Brown. It’s on Ernest St, one block off and parallel to East Bay St, near the exit bridge from Paradise Island.

Bahama Hand Prints manufactures and sells unique clothing, handbags, table linens and accessories made from hand-screened fabrics. They imprint Bahamian designs, such as shells, flowers and palm fronds, on cotton, linen and raw silk. The most popular item at the store is ready-to-wear clothing.

The entrepreneurs offer patrons a behind-the-scenes demonstration of how hand prints are made. “We’re preserving a labour-intensive art, a dying art,” says Lamare. “It’s fascinating to watch.”

Why visit Bay Street? “For the shopping experience,” declares William Carey of Little Switzerland, one of the most trusted duty-free retailers (fine jewellery, watches, china, crystal and accessories) in the Caribbean area.

Little Switzerland is associated with the Breitling Boutique, also on Bay St, which offers a wide range of watches for men and women. “It’s the only store of its kind in the Americas,” says Carey. “Breitling is a brand that has arrived,” he adds.

Debra Neymour, marketing manager for Solomon’s Mines, one of Nassau’s largest retailers, believes it’s just the sheer number of shops that brings visitors downtown.

The main draws are “one-stop shopping and duty-free prices,” says Neymour. At press time, Solomon’s main store (there are three on Bay St) was preparing to showcase a number of exciting “new arrivals in watches, clothing and accessories.”

Solomon’s Mines hosts a collection of in-shop boutiques, including Lalique, Ferragamo and Longchamps, as well as “the only Herend showroom in The Bahamas.” Among other things, Solomon’s offers a self-service perfumery and a wide selection of watches, jewellery and leather goods. The store is billed as one of the swankiest retailers in the Caribbean area.

Another retailer, manager Toni Gaad of Diamonds International, says smaller items – rings and inexpensive watches – are selling well this season but that sales of high-end items are also increasing.

One reason buyers go to Diamonds International is that they can trade in old jewellery for new. “We also offer three months layaway and an official certificate of quality when you buy from the store,” says Gaad. This store is associated with Tanzanite International, also on Bay, offering the popular blue-to-purple coloured stones at duty-free prices.

The main draws, according to Gloria Raine, manager of The Linen Shop, are variety and prices. “I do think that we have a greater variety down here, not only in merchandise but also in price,” she says.

“Besides, when people come downtown they are experiencing the history of Nassau. They get to see the old buildings and feel the wonder, and share in the life and culture.”

Raine says tablecloths are a big seller at The Linen Shop, and run from $20 up, depending on size.

Inga Bowleg, marketing manager for John Bull, believes there are three reasons visitors leave their hotels to shop up and down Bay St – no taxes, variety and also exclusivity: “Many pieces in demand here are not even available in the United States,” says Bowleg.

Jewellery by David Yurman is selling especially well at John Bull, says Bowleg, and so are pieces by H Stern, Tiffany and Bulgari. Among perfumes, Chanel and Vera Wang fragrances are popular, she says.

John Bull is a longstanding family business, one of the most trusted and sophisticated retail outlets in The Bahamas, with 20 stores around the islands. The Bay St store includes one boutique counter after another, including La Parfumerie, Tabacalera/Havana Humidor, Leather Gallery and the Photographic Centre with the latest in digital cameras, and the Cartier store with its special collection of watches, jewellery and leather.

More fine shops along Bay and some of the top-quality items they offer include Colombian (jewellery and watches by Chopard, Charriol, TechnoMarine, Corum and Versace), Diamonds Forever (sapphire and tanzanite jewellery), Golden Karat/Silver Karat (fine jewellery including the popular Hook collection), Effy Collection Jewelers (gemstone jewellery, the Rainbow collection), Hard Rock Cafe (T-shirts, chains, caps, etc, all with the Hard Rock logo), Island Blue (Fresh Produce line of clothing, including beach wear, dresses, pants, swimsuits and wraps), Jeweler’s Warehouse (quality jewellery at excellent prices), Pipe of Peace (Bahama Cruise resort wear, watches, jewellery and sunglasses) and Sunglass Shack (luxury eyewear and the affordable Bahama Cruise line).

Disclaimer: The information in this article/release was accurate at press time; however, we suggest you confirm all details and prices directly with vendors.
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