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6 reasons why Calgary is Canada’s best city for shopping

Stephens Avenue Calgary

Fashionable and pedestrian-friendly Stephen Avenue is one place shoppers like to descend when they’re in downtown Calgary, where there is no provincial sales tax. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Story by Jody Robbins
Vacay.ca Writer

CALGARY, ALBERTA — You’ve just gone through a break up. It’s the holiday season. Your best friend is getting married. Your ex is getting married. Whatever the excuse, shopping is always a perfectly acceptable pastime, especially if you live in Calgary.

What is it about Cowtown that draws shopaholics to its stores like sorority sisters to Coach outlets?

“Calgary has more modern stores and a lot of shops you can’t find in other Canadian cities,” notes Edmontonian Jackie Fetter. Here are six reasons why conscientious consumers charge here.

Less Taxing

Out-of-province shoppers know that a trip to Alberta means they’ll spend less (or can buy more — whichever way you want to justify it). With the least sales tax (no PST or HST) in all of Canada, there’s only the five per cent Government Sales Tax (GST) tacked on, making Calgary a mecca for big-ticket items.

Whenever Bindi Karia touches down from Heathrow, one of her first orders of business is making a beeline for the mall.

“It’s because there’s tax-free shopping in Calgary, and that means my British pounds go further. Plus I get everything I need in Calgary — my shopping list is always totally sorted,” the savvy Londoner says, pointing out the virtues of shopping without paying a provincial sales tax.

Home of the Western Canadian Flagship

When it comes to global brands, bigger really is better. Home to several western flagships such as Tory Burch, BCBGeneration and Rolex, these stores are the place to find exclusive lines and designer collaborations like Marni and Anna Della Russo for H&M.

“People waited for hours on end (lining up at 4 am) to buy our designer collection in Calgary,” says Emily Scarlett of H&M.

Flagships also offer more selection than standard stores and with beautifully designed interiors, those tagging along can revel in the swish surroundings instead of grumbling about carrying your many bags. Ah, men!

Variety is the Spice of Life

Calgary has made a shift in recent years to offer a more varied mix to its shopping offerings.

“I come in from out of province to shop in Calgary because of the amount and variety of stores,” admits Deanne Guest.

Some of the country’s most exciting and notable designers like Paul Hardy and Caitlin Power have chosen to make Calgary their home base for design. And then there’s local eco-shops like Rocky Mountain Soap Company, whose citronella lotion has reached cult status among hikers who won’t venture into the mountains without a hearty dose of the 100 per cent natural product.

Major Malls

Pretty much every mall in the city has had a facelift in recent years, and come Boxing Day, there’s no better place to be than at The CORE. It’s dead quiet at the downtown mall until 11 am, when the crowds trickle in. You’ll need to get your elbows up to sort through the bargains at Holts and Harry Rosen, but the deals you snag make up for any  aggressive shopping behaviour. A word to the wise: Boxing Day shopping is not something to be taken lightly. It’s a serious (sometimes contact) sport, best left to the pros. Meaning: don’t take my parking spot.

Head to Chinook Centre for Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma and Tory Burch. Here, you’ll also find a multiplex theatre and the first stand-alone Tiffany boutique between Vancouver and Toronto.

“With the vibrant retail environment in Alberta, it made sense for us to have a free-standing store in Calgary,” says Elizabeth Hellebrand, director of Tiffany & Co.

Just north of downtown, Market Mall has one of the city’s best selections of kid’s clothing and a sought-after play area for the pre-school and toddler set. SouthCentre Mall boasts a Disney Store, Crate & Barrel and a free personal style concierge service.

CrossIron MIlls is home to many outlet shops and 17 large-format anchor stores. Out of towners get a kick out of Bass Pro Shops, a 15,000-square-foot destination in itself, filled with more than 400 fish and wildlife mounts, artifacts and rustic outdoor items.

Indy Movement

But Cowtown isn’t just big malls and steak dinners. There are several bustling high streets close to the city centre, where you can find eclectic shops and edgy boutiques.

At the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers, lies eclectic Inglewood, where the environmentally conscious flock for funky repurposed goods.

Carousing the Red Mile at night is a popular pastime, but the shops along this high street are best prowled by day. On 17th Avenue, you’ll find a street that is riddled with quirky consignment shops and trendy boutiques. Some of Calgary’s top restaurants call this strip home, allowing you to admire your spoils whilst tucking into Alberta beef.

And if it’s contemporary, cutting-edge fashion you’re looking for, head to Fashion Central, which houses local designers intermingled between brands like Betsey Johnson and Fluevog.

Web and Hotel Assistance

Thanks to a first-of-its-kind website tool created by Tourism Calgary, shopping in Calgary is now easier than ever. The website allows visitors to search more than 400 stores and major shopping centres to create a personalized itinerary. In addition to ranking shopping hot spots, the tool also suggests nearby places to stay, eat, and things to do.

As if we need more incentive, shoppers receive gift cards to major shopping centres, just for booking a stay at a Calgary hotel. Available on visitcalgary.com, shoppers can book nights at Calgary hotels and receive a $75 shopping bonus gift card (one for each night) usable at The CORE, Chinook Centre, and CrossIron Mills.

More About Shopping in Calgary

Visit the city’s website for further information. Below is a map showing The CORE, Chinook Centre and CrossIron Mills.

View Larger Map



Jody Robbins is a travel and lifestyles writer. Contributing to the Calgary Herald, Today’s Parent and Up! magazine, she divides her time between Calgary and Canmore. She is also the Family Travel Columnist for Vacay.ca and the Alberta Regional Chair for the Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada, which earned 2.5 million Twitter impressions in its first month for the #Vacay50 hashtag campaign. Jody is active on Twitter (@Jody_Robbins) and maintains her own blog (Travels with Baggage), where you can keep up with all of her latest adventures. When not travelling with her precocious children (one daughter, one husband and one dog), this wannabe foodie can usually be found chowing down at the latest hotspots before attempting to work it all off on the trails.

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