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Shopping in Bulgaria
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Shopping in Bulgaria is a wonderful experience. The retail structure here is changing rapidly with more and more international chains setting up business here. Bulgaria has some of the lowest prices in Europe particularly for clothes, shoes, food, chocolate, alcohol and jewellery. Electrical goods tend to be slightly lower or on a par with those from other European countries and luxury goods are around the same price and sometimes more expensive.

Electrical Goods
There are two main chain stores dedicated to the sale of electrical goods and high tech products. They are Technomarket and Technopolis and there is very little difference between the two in terms of service, returns policy, selection and prices. Both stores sell everything from white goods to computers and I pods. Both shops are currently pushing easy credit terms, however this is only available to Bulgarian nationals and those with a permanent residence card. If you wish buy goods, which cost in excess of 800 leva and do not intend to pay in cash, then you need to support the authenticity of your credit card with some form of photo ID like a passport. Guarantees are given with all electrical appliances, however they are often very ineffective. If goods become defective during the guarantee period, you will not be given a replacement. Rather, you will be required to take the items to the company’s repair shop.

Food Stores
Bulgaria’s roster of food chains is growing. Currently foreign retailers like Metro, Billa and Kaufland dominate the food scene competing closely with Bulgaria’s home brand Piccadilly. French hypermarket leader, Carrefour is set to expand into Bulgaria during 2008. Metro offers a cash and carry business, which is suitable for those who run their own business and need to bulk buy. The company issue membership cards to enable visitors to shop in the store. Most business associates buy annual passes, however it is possible to obtain a free day pass on the production of a passport. The store stocks a wide range of electrical goods, clothing, toys and food and is generally renowned for its low prices. The service in the store is poor with unhelpful staff and long check out queues. Children under seven years of age are not permitted entry into the store due to the frequent use of forklift trucks. The store does stock many international food brands, from tinned products by Heinz to dairy products by Rama. Kaufland and Billa offer a mix of food, clothing and household goods with German brands dominating the shelves. Piccadilly offers a pleasant shopping environment with a wide range of international products and a good selection of fresh meat, fish and fruit and vegetables. Staff are helpful and there are rarely queues at the checkout. The company offer a loyalty card which enables shoppers to trade points for free household goods.

Coffee Boutiques
Coffee chains are a new and growing phenomenon in Bulgaria and today most cities have a branch of Coffee Republic and Costa Coffee. Such international chains provide a wider variety of non alcoholic beverages and snacks than local cafes, but the price for such diversity is high with a large coffee selling for around 3 to 4 leva in the international chains compared to 1 to 2 leva in the independent cafes Service in the international coffee boutiques is substantially superior to that of the independent cafes.

Boutiques and clothes stores
Shopaholics will love the Bulgarian clothes scene. There is a wealth of clothes stores in every city with Bulgarian chain stores like Denyl competing with international leaders Zara and Mango amongst many others. Adidas and Reebok have opened a variety of sport outlets and factory stores in the major cities, but prices tend to be higher than within independent Bulgarian sports retail outlets.

Mango dominates most cities and offers a stunning range of fashion clothing for women with generous seasonal sales, where goods are sold at discounts of up to 70%. All of the international chains as well as the large local chains accept credit cards, but their returns policy still leaves much to be desired as does the service and variety of sizes on offer. Most female clothing sold in Bulgaria is small in size making it difficult for larger and older ladies to find bargains. Bulgaria is a haven for designer fakes with stores like Denyl selling the best reproductions. Prices are substantially lower in Denyl than in the international chains and the quality is still of a good standard. Chain store Zara recently opened up a selection of stores and factory outlets, which offer a better selection of sizes at phenomenally, low prices.

Lingerie stores
Lingerie in Bulgaria is amazingly inexpensive and the range of designs and colours is spectacular. Many of the best stores are located off the beaten track, down side alleys or in markets. Prices are phenomenally low with lingerie sets costing as little as 5 leva. Buyers should however beware that much of the discount lingerie is imported from Turkey and China and is of low quality. There is a great selection of standard sizes and also for the more mature lady, there are a host of large sizes in various styles. Men will be able to pick up some designer bargains, fake of course, for as little as 4 leva for a pair of Calvin Klein boxer shorts.

The rise of the mall
Out of town shopping malls are starting to dominate the retail skyline in all towns and cities across the country. Sea capital Varna has five new malls planned and currently under construction. The malls offer a wide variety of facilities from eateries to cinemas. They are dominated by shoe, clothes and jewellery retailers, but offer a pleasant, clean shopping environment with plenty of car parking facilities.

Shop local to avoid high prices
Bulgarian ski and beach resorts all offer a host of stores and stalls selling what at first sight seems like amazing bargains. However, buyers would do well to venture into the nearest town or city where they can buy the same goods for substantially less. Many towns and cities have “Gypsy Markets” which sell all manner of goods at low prices, Generally the quality and origin of the goods is suspect, however if you check the item you wish to purchase thoroughly before parting with any money, you can pick up some excellent bargains.

Happy Shopping!

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