Shopping in St. Petersburg
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St. Petersburg Shopping
Pick up a copy of Russian Vogue and you may be surprised to see that it nearly outdoes its Parisian and American counterparts for sheer gloss, glitz, and elegant, trendy garb. And all those nifty threads that the models are wearing—Versace, Hugo Boss, Gucci, Kenzo, Prada, Armani—are fully stocked in the international boutiques around the city. The days of basic items being scarce are long gone. And to make room for all these new shoppers, stores stay open until 8 or 9 pm or later, and are open on Sunday.
"Western-style" shops taking credit-card payment long ago replaced the old Beriozka (Birch Tree) emporiums, which were stocked only for foreigners. Kiosks, street tables, and impromptu markets sell a colorful jumble of junk. You'll see women lined up selling socks, scarves, and who-knows-what near Sennaya Ploshchad, and if you're lucky you might pick up some great old books (watch in particular the corner of Nevsky and Fontanka, across the street from the Palace of Prince Beloselsky-Belozersky). But this mini-industry of individual entrepreneurs, which mushroomed wildly in the first years of glasnost, is on the wane. Everything is being tidied up and taken back inside. You may also be surprised to find a plethora of "24 chasa" stores (i.e., open 24 hours a day). They vary from smallish to big, but there will always be one near you, stocked with alcohol, cigarettes, and groceries.
Russian wrinkles in the way people shop occur haphazardly unless you seek them out by finding old-fashioned outlets in backstreets and away from the city center. There's nothing you can't buy and the biggest problem you are likely to encounter is unwillingness from sales assistants to count back large amounts of change.
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