Shopping in Aberdeen
Older Aberdonians may recall the joke: What keeps Union Street warm in winter? Answer: Boots and Woolies. These days the Woolworths store is long gone but the city has scores of other high street brands to keep the tills ringing merrily. A few decades ago, Aberdeen fashionistas preferred to travel to Edinburgh or Glasgow to keep up with the latest trends, but today Aberdeen’s shops offer a vast selection of boutiques and brands to keep even the most ardent follower of fashion happy.
The north east of Scotland has now become a mecca for shoppers from throughout the country and even from abroad, as major high street names vie with traditional outlets and boutiques for a piece of the action. Aberdeen is undoubtedly the area’s retail jewel in the crown, but a wide range of shopping options exist throughout the shire, too. Traditionally the main shopping areas of the city were Union Street and George Street.
However, over the years several covered shopping malls have been built in the city centre which has changed the face of shopping in Aberdeen. One of these is the city’s £250 million Union Square which opened in 2009. It combines unique new architecture with the Aberdeen train station facade built in the early 20th century. The result is one of the largest city centre shopping developments in the UK and the second largest in Scotland after Glasgow’s Buchanan Galleries, with a total retail space of 700,000 square feet.
Union Square boasts over 60 stores and restaurants, a 10-screen cinema and a 203-bedroom hotel right in the centre of Aberdeen. A wide range of outlets exist including New Look, Hollister, Apple, Marks & Spencer, Next, TK Maxx and Zara. Global fashion giant Hugo Boss also opened its first stand alone store in the city in Union Square with a 3,000sq ft venue offering BOSS Black, Green and Orange ranges, covering smart tailoring, golfing and casual wear.
And when you’re finished shopping in the futuristic glass-fronted emporium, you can have a bite to eat in one of the many cafes and restaurants including Wagamama, YO! Sushi, Frankie and Benny’s, ASK and Nando’s. An added advantage is its 1700 car parking spaces, plus covered links to the city’s bus and rail stations, and it is only a short hop to the ferry terminal, too.
These days the Woolworths store is long gone but the city has scores of other high street brands to keep the tills ringing merrily
The Bon Accord & St Nicholas Shopping Centres complex – formerly two separate centres which merged together as one – is the second-largest shopping centre in Aberdeen. Since opening – St Nicholas in 1985 and Bon Accord in 1990 – the shopping centres have formed a prime retailing area in Aberdeen. The centre is split into two buildings and has three floors extending to 630,000 square feet.
Stores at The Bon Accord include Coast, The Disney Store, Hobbs, Karen Millen, Laura Ashley, Jo Malone, River Island and Next. St Nicholas’s stores include Marks and Spencer and Miss Selfridge. The Academy Aberdeen in Schoolhill was developed to fill a gap in the Aberdeen market for quality, upmarket niche shopping. It offers a range of high fashion stores including Attic and Concept, stocking a range of exclusive brands including Paul Frank, True Religion, Diesel, Franklyn & Marshall and Fila Gold.
The Trinity Centre is a one-floor shopping centre in the middle of the city which is home to large retail outlets such as HMV, Waterstones, Primark and Debenhams. Aberdeen’s West End has always had a certain cachet and it is one of the most sought after residential areas in Scotland. It hasn’t always been the chosen destination of shopping divas but a regeneration bid in recent years to unleash the retail potential of the area has worked a treat.
What once was the preserve of bars, fast food joints and offices has been transformed into a myriad of boutiques stocking designer names, gifts, homeware and antiques – in short, a designer shopper’s paradise. The injection of top names and brands has helped the city to offer a refreshing alternative to the traditional shopping meccas in the Central Belt. The West End now boasts designer shops including Kafka and Cruise co-existing with traditional outlets such as equestrian specialist Country Ways and jeweller Finnies, which is located in nearby George Street.
The Academy Aberdeen in Schoolhill was developed to fill a gap in the Aberdeen market for quality, upmarket niche shopping
The example of Cruise on Union Street is redolent of the way things have moved in the West End. It secured an 8,500 square feet granite and glass fronted building, situated across two levels, housing the season’s most demanded accessory products for both women and men. Cruise Footwear, Accessories and Bags Aberdeen showcase a mix of international designer brands including Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Jimmy Choo, Dior, Vivienne Westwood, Zagliani and Y-3.
The boutique features a luxurious shopfit and the sleek interior has been designed to embrace the building’s original architectural features. Bellino is an independent boutique in Thistle Street, specialising in ladies footwear and fashion, with collections from brands across the globe.
Art and antique lovers will be spoiled for choice at Elizabeth Watt’s shop in the same street which has fine jewellery and china on offer as well as expertise in restoring precious ornaments and objets d‘art. For map and print lovers the choice should be Colin Wood Antiques on nearby Rose Street. Gallery Heinzel, again on Thistle Street, offers a wide selection of contemporary art from emerging and established artists in Scotland and its bright modern premises are filled with a continually-changing exhibition of work. In the same street Hamish Munro will satisfy any shoe addict with its unrivalled selection of designer names such as Hispanitas and Menbur.
The boutique features a luxurious shopfit and the sleek interior has been designed to embrace the building’s original architectural features
For many people, it is the large number of independent boutiques in Aberdeen that make shopping such a pleasure. You can be sure that if you buy an outfit in one of these unique shops, you won’t see someone else in the city wearing it. Many of these one-off designer shops have agents who travel to fashion shows all over the world to choose individual items they think will suit their customers back in the Granite City. As a result there are some incredible clothes from little-known designers in France, Germany, Italy and Holland amongst others, all finished beautifully and at an affordable price.
Esslemonts in Thistle Street offers designer labels such as Camel Active, Remus and Florentino while the ladies are well catered for at Esslemonts 2 with designs from Turnover and Stills and Marella. In addition the city centre is confined to a pretty small area, so unlike larger cities, you can probably get round all the shops in one day, especially if you know the kind of thing you are looking for.
Though city shopping first springs to mind – and Aberdeen offers modern shopping malls and high street names as good as any city in Britain – the wider north east area has an excellent range of other speciality shops and retail businesses. If travelling to some of the rural communities, small town shopping boasts its own special charms – not least the more leisurely air evident in these areas.
The region derives some of its wealth from fishing and farming, and this is reflected in stylish shops in comparatively small places that are all part of the surprise in store when you visit. Inverurie features a range of markets each week with every Sunday morning featuring one of the largest car boot sales in Scotland. Everything and anything – from antiques to bric-a-brac; vinyl records to mini-discs; wooden toys to computer games – can be found at this event.
The town centre also hosts a more traditional Farmers Market on the second Saturday of every month. Inverurie, in addition, has a full range of modern shops with many specialist outlets. The fashion retailers offer everything from exclusive evening wear through to trendy teenage styles to a wide outdoor activity selection.
For many people, it is the large number of independent boutiques in Aberdeen that make shopping such a pleasure
Royal Deeside, too, in the shadow of Balmoral, has a vast array of interesting and quirky, locally-owned and independent shops, many of them carrying the Royal seal of approval with Royal Warrants. This means that these shops supply the Royal Family at Balmoral. What better recommendation can you have?
And if you head up the Buchan coast and arrive at Banff you can chance upon the famous Spotty Bag Shop which proudly proclaims ‘if you can’t find it here, you can’t find it anywhere’, and with more than 18,000sq ft of retail space and well over 60,000 lines they are probably right.
Back in the city, Aberdeen Country Fair can be found on the last Saturday of every month. Located on Belmont Street, between Union Street and Schoolhill, Aberdeen Country Fair is one of the largest markets in Scotland, attracting up to 30,000 people per event. The market provides local farmers and crafters the opportunity to showcase their quality home-grown and hand-crafted products.
From craftwork to exclusive fashion, outdoor gear to antiques, for choice and value, Aberdeen and the shire will take care of all your shopping urges!
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