The U.S. dollar's shrinking value has made Americans nervous about buying abroad, but there are distinct advantages to shopping in other countries.
The world's great cities can provide more stimulating presentations of merchandise and items of better quality.
Some of the great shops may be in out-of-the-way places, particularly in high-density world capitals. Some highlights.
British Crafts Centre, 43 Earlham St. A gallery of handmade items for sale, including ceramics, jewelry, baskets, glass, wooden objets d'art, furniture, tapestries, rugs and more. You may also commission work.
Coles, 131 Sloane St. This shirtmaker, in business since 1878, has dressed many celebrated Britons and savvy Americans who want style, quality and durability. Coles' ready-made and made-to-order shirts for men, women and children come in beautiful poplins and silks in a dazzling array of stripes and colors.
Floris, 89 Jermyn St. Perfumers to the queen and suppliers of toiletries to the Prince of Wales. Scents include sandalwood, rose geranium, English violet, wild hyacinth and other florals. Also, antique porcelain and silver shaving bowls, quality hairbrushes and mustache combs, ivory-handled toothbrushes and other accessories.
Fortnum and Mason, 181 Piccadilly. This famous department store carries many exclusive items, including fine British cashmeres, tweeds, tartans and special gourmet gift packs, as well as an astonishing range of teas and biscuits (crackers), tapestry luggage and Lord David Linley's jewelry boxes and valet stands.
Harrods, Knightsbridge. Exclusive items in this fabulous department store include Harrods' own tartan or black and green handbags, wallets, key holders, carry bags, scarfs and umbrellas. Superb designer fashions, and the world's greatest gourmet food halls. Famous New Year's sale.
Harvey Nichols, 109 Knightsbridge. Impeccably elegant department store featuring top British and European clothing designers, including Jaeger, Sonia Rykiel and others. Interior design departments offer exotic fabrics, unusual basketry, fine linens and magnificent accessories.
N. Peal, 37-40 and 54 Burlington Arcade. A good source for women's and men's cashmere sweaters, available in a variety of styles, from traditional cardigans to designer extravaganzas, in a rainbow of colors. Cashmere scarfs and mufflers too.
Smythson of Bond Street, 54 New Bond St. As royal stationers to the queen, Smythson's has the last word on stationery etiquette and has handsome desk accessories, agendas, address books, stationery, pens, special record books (travel diaries, wine-tasting notes, gift lists, etc.), portfolios and attache cases. Great for business cards and invitations.
Au Printemps, 64 Blvd. Haussmann. This department store occupies three buildings: Nouveau Magasin has high fashion women's and children's boutiques, furs, lingerie, accessories, perfumes. Brummell has men's business and casual clothes and accessories. Printemps de la Maison has home furnishings. La Boutique Noire offers personalized gifts and superb VIP shopping services.
Cacharel Stock, 114 Rue d'Alesia. Discount Cacharel for men, women and children. Most merchandise, including suits, coats, shirts, dresses, sweaters and accessories, is from previous seasons, but still stylish. Always well stocked and packed with customers.
Catherine, 6 Rue Castiglione. A duty-free perfumery with a vast variety of scents and cosmetics at deepest discount prices. Catherine stocks about 108 scents for men or women from about 47 perfume makers, plus cosmetics by Orlane and Lancome. Buy 1,200 francs' worth and get up to a 40% discount.
Fauchon, 26 Place de la Madeleine. Paris' best gourmet grocery with exquisite foies gras, caviar, truffles, canned stews and soups, exotic condiments, 45 jams, 75 teas, confectionery, wines, Champagnes, packaged for export. Fauchon tea caddies, platters, mugs. Exciting window displays stop traffic. Great fresh foods too.
Gault, 206 Rue de Rivoli. Charming handmade, hand-painted porcelain miniature houses are replicas of buildings in older sections of Paris and provincial French towns. Special-order to have your name, or a friend's, painted over the door of a boulangerie or boutique. Great souvenirs and gifts.
La Porcelaine Blanche, 135 Rue d'Alesia. The fine line of all-white porcelain and faience made by La Porcelaine Blanche is sold here at discounted prices, with reductions of up to 50% on selected pieces. In addition to full table settings, there are serving platters, bowls and kitchen accessories.
Nina Ricci, 39 Ave. Montaigne. Ricci's town house headquarters offers everything from lingerie to furs at astronomical prices. But there's a bargain basement with great buys on last season's stock including classic suits, extravagant evening items and accessories that never go out of style.