Nov 16 2014

Nassau Shopping – Downtown (The Local)


Another Local feature today: Nassau Shopping! I’ll be focusing on the downtown area.  So, if any you are interested in where I shop and what brands are available – or if you are perhaps thinking of visiting The Bahamas, stay tuned and hopefully this post is useful to you. 🙂

Nassau Shopping –  The Bahamas

When it comes to shopping in The Bahamas three things usual come to mind: jewelry, leather goods and liquor. But is it expensive? The value of the Bahamian Dollar is about equivalent to the U.S. Dollar (1 to 1).  Currently, we don’t have retail tax in The Bahamas (though that’s about to change). However, when it comes to retail goods imported from other countries (which is almost everything), we pay customs, i.e. a percentage of the value. Anyone importing anything pays this – whether it is a company bringing in clothing or an individual bringing back cookies in their suitcase.

With respect to retailers, the cost of customs tax is passed to consumers. For example, let’s say the retail value of a bar of soap is $2.00 and the importers pays a rate of 40% – which means it costs them $2.80 to bring it into the country. They then factor in transportation costs and making a profit. So when I go to the grocery store to buy that bar of soap, it may cost me $4.00. Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that with certain concessions and such, but you get the gist.

Anyway, years ago, the government decided to make certain luxury items “duty-free” including liquor, china, crystal, collectibles, fragrances, watches, and leather goods (for retailers only, not individuals). We are a tourist destination, after all, and it was seen as way to make our market more competitive. This means that the cost on certain designer items is slightly lower here and there is the added benefit of no tax. So, for example, I can pick up a Chanel mascara for the equivalent of $27.00 USD instead of $30.00 USD. Yay! For now.


The Local Nassau Shopping (Downtown) - Solomon's Mines

The Local Nassau Shopping (Downtown) 8


What I’ve just written will become almost meaningless as the country will be implementing VAT (Value Added Tax) in a couple of months. If you ever find yourself in this part of the world after January 1st, 2015, however, please know that as a tourist you will be eligible for VAT refund.  At some stores,  they will apparently being doing this refund at the point of sale (where you show your passport). Otherwise you can get your refund at the Airport. Sadly, I’ll have to pay the tax in the new year – so maybe I should stock up on makeup? 🙂

Major Brands

Moving on (this isn’t a economics class). When it comes to designer goods, The Bahamas is considered by international brands, for the most part, as a travel jurisdiction. As such, there are only certain collections that we receive and new collections are usually released later than other parts of the world. For a beauty addict like myself, shopping at home definitely has its limitations when I’m lusting after the newest items on the market. Nevertheless, I try to support the local economy whenever I can.

The major cosmetics and skincare brands that are available in The Bahamas include: Biotherm, Bobbi Brown, Chanel, Clarins, Clinique, Dermalogica, Guerlain (extremely limited) IMAN, Lancome, MAC Cosmetics, Elizabeth Arden, Estee Lauder, La Mer, Shiseido, Smashbox, and Yves Saint Laurent, among others.

The Local Nassau Shopping (Downtown) - Fendi

The Local Nassau Shopping (Downtown) 10

Pretty much all of the major fragrance designers are here apart from the more specialized and boutique varieties. And when it comes to leather goods, jewelry and watches there is a very wide selection: Breitling, Bvlgari, Cartier, Coach, David Yurman, Gucci, Fendi, Michael Kors, Movado, Omega, Pandora, Rolex, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tiffany, and many others.

Where I Shop

I do most of my shopping at John Bull, the Perfume Shop & Cosmetics (the Beauty Spot) and the Cosmetics Boutique.

John Bull is the equivalent of what, in other parts of the world, one might consider a “department store” – but they don’t carry clothing. You’ll find the major cosmetics, skincare, watches, jewelry, and leather goods mentioned above.


The Local Nassau Shopping (Downtown) - John Bull

John Bull, Nassau, The Bahamas


The Perfume Shop & Cosmetics sells perfume and cosmetics (duh) and carries some, but not all, of the the brands you will find at John Bull. At one time you could find Guerlain makeup there but, lately, I haven’t seen it – which is a shame. In my humble opinion, I think they should focus on brands that the other larger stores do not carry.  I saw Glam Glow in there once but then it was gone and never restocked. They should bring back Guerlain, consider Dior (which is not carried anywhere in The Bahamas as far as I know), and explore popular brands which are non-traditional in this market. This could make them really stand out in the market.  Still, I like to shop there and they have a nice selection of travel exclusives. They are also the only retailer of L’oreal that I have seen.


The Local Nassau Shopping (Downtown) - The Perfume Shop & Cosmetics

The Perfume Shop & Cosmetics, Nassau, Bahamas

The Local Nassau Shopping (Downtown) 4

Finally, my favorite hangout is The Cosmetics Boutique. This newest addition to the retail market is actually part of John Bull. I think it is really smart what they did here. They recognized that there was a market for a space dedicated to the multi-billion dollar industry that is cosmetics and they made it happen. The Cosmetics Boutique basically carries the Estee Lauder family of companies & brands: Bobbi Brown, Clinique, Smashbox, MAC, La Mer and Jo Malone. (Incidentally the family also includes Tom Ford which is not here – I’m crossing my fingers for that to happen). It’s always busy in there and I danced a happy dance when they opened their doors.


The Local Nassau Shopping (Downtown) - The Cosmetic Boutique

The Cosmetics Boutique, Nassau, The Bahamas

The Local Nassau Shopping (Downtown) 5


I hope you guys have enjoyed this peek into what Nassau shopping is like an maybe learned something new? What’s the retail market like where you’re from? Have a wonderful day and thanks for stopping by!





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    • kpsays on November 20, 2014 at 10:18 pm
    • Reply

    I HATE y’all will be having to pay VAT!!! And hate it for me when I come for vacation!!!!

      • Kimmy on November 21, 2014 at 11:27 am
      • Reply

      Hehe. Yeah, starting January it will be 7.5 % they are saying now. But you will be OK – once you show your Passport you’ll be able to get the refund back right at the point of sale in most stores and at the Airport as well. 🙂 xo

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