Patong Beach is the center of handicraft and souvenir shopping in Phuket, and its main streets and small sois are teeming with storefront tailors, leather shops, jewelers, and ready-to-wear clothing boutiques. Vendors line the sidewalks, selling everything from bras to batik clothing, arts and crafts, northern hill-tribe silver, and of course the usual fake brands and dodgy CDs -- their importation is now illegal in many countries. Vendors everywhere in Patong have the nasty habit of hassling passersby; don't respond to any greeting, and you may get away tout-free. Most prices are inflated compared to Bangkok or other tourist markets in Thailand, but some hard bargaining can get you the right price. Many items, such as northern handicrafts, are best if purchased closer to the source, but if this is your only stop in Thailand, everything is cheap compared to the West -- you might as well stock up.
To avoid rip-off merchants, take a stroll to JungCeylon (181 Rat-U-Thit Rd.; tel. 07660-0111; www.jungceylon.com), a megamall devoted to shopping and entertainment, whose entire basement (curiously called "That's Siam") is filled with a great range of local handicrafts from all over Thailand. JungCeylon also hosts some of the popular teenager label boutiques, sport shops, fast-food outlets, and fashions, as well as popular Asian brands. It's a much more relaxed and hassle-free shopping experience than most here.
The island's other malls consist of the humongous Central Festival (tel. 07629-1111), about 10km (6 1/4 miles) inland from Patong and 3km (1 3/4 miles) inland from Phuket Town on Chalermprakiet Road. Big C (tel. 07624-9444), a midrange mall, is next door; nearby Tesco Lotus (no phone) is unlike the British supermarket in everything but name; it sells mostly Thai-oriented consumer and food items.
Visit Phuket Town for local arts, a few whacky boutiques, and some reputable antiques stores, as well as Robinson department store (no phone) and Ocean Mall market. For good-quality shopping suggestions and a great walking map of the Old Town, visit www.artandcultureasia.com. The Art & Culture South guide, available around town, offers pointers on where to buy antiques and original art, from the Artists' Village at Nai Harn to the galleries of Surin Beach and beyond.
One of the best tailors in the area is Peach, in Patong (9/8 Prachanukhro Rd.; tel. 07634-5614).