From shopaholics to casual browsers, Toronto offers plenty to interest anyone who likes to shop. As usual in this town, the wide range of choices is most easily broken down by neighborhood. The quaint, sometimes junky shops of Yonge Street deal in touristy trinkets, antiques, and local book chains like Book City, while Kensington Market is all vintage racks, most of them loaded down with clothing. Top labels like Gucci and Chanel line Mink Mile along Bloor Street West, which borders tony Yorkville where boutiques, such as MO851, a Canadian-owned leather store selling beautiful bags and cool jackets, reign. Downtown West leads to locally designed and generally hip finds like Fresh Baked Goods (knitwear, not pastries), Lilliput Hats on College St, and on Queen Street West, Preloved. An emerging design area along King Street East, in the heart of the historic Corktown neighborhood, promises dazzling showrooms featuring the latest in top brands. The city is also dense with ethnic pockets, from Little India in the east to Koreatown in the West, Little Italy(s) north and south, at least three Chinatowns to explore, and many more to suit your tastes.
That said, the economic crisis has had a visible impact in Toronto these past few years, and there are many empty storefronts downtown. The closures tumbled institutions such as veteran Pages Bookstore on Queen Street West and many mom-and-pop shops. Nonetheless, business is robust enough to nurture small enterprises like Type -- with two stores -- and sustain great indie stores such as Soundscapes on College Street, where you can buy CDs and hot tickets to live shows. The business of shopping is also enough of a draw to justify a major rejuvenation of the Mink Mile along Bloor Street West: It took 2 1/2 years and cost millions, but the designer strip is now a pretty boulevard speckled with granite slabs, now worthy of the haute brands that line the street.
The Eaton Centre is Toronto's most famous shopping arcade, with more than 200 chain stores. Think: Banana Republic, Pottery Barn, Abercrombie & Fitch, and the Gap, plus two department stores, the Bay and Sears, at either end of the block-long mall. The Bay has been generating news in fashion circles with its reinvention from conservative to cutting-edge. Celebrity fashion editors and designers have come to visit and endorse the collections of frocks and more. But the case remains: The Eaton Centre is convenient yet generally boring. Be adventurous and check out local neighborhood shops to score deals on unique clothing, housewares, and antiques.
The Shopping Scene
While there are enough buys offered by the numerous international retailers in Toronto to pack a U-Haul with, don't forget the local talent. If your passion is fashion, there are great Canadian labels such as Anne Hung, Mercy, Lida Baday, Lydia K, Ross Mayerand, and Comrags, for starters.
Toronto also has a bustling arts-and-crafts community, with many galleries, custom jewelers, and artisans. Some of the best are design-related, such as the eclectic collection at Swipe and Canadiana-with-cheek at MADE. If you're an art-lover, note that artwork brought into the United States is duty-free.
Stores usually open around 10am from Monday to Saturday. Closing hours change depending on the day. From Monday to Wednesday, most stores close at 6pm; on Thursday and Friday, hours can run to 8 or 9pm; on Saturday, closing is usually at 6pm. Most stores are open on Sunday, though the hours may be restricted -- 11am or noon to 5pm is standard.
All Toronto retailers charge shoppers for plastic bags; the charge for a plastic bag is C5¢. While the move was intended to boost Toronto's eco-friendliness, the fact that the bag tax doesn't go into any environmental fund (in fact, the "tax" money is kept by the shops) has caused a hullabaloo among some shoppers.
Almost every establishment accepts MasterCard and Visa, and a growing number take American Express.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.