GIBRALTAR’S stock as a first-rate shop-til-you-drop destination for expats in Spain is rising like its famous national dish – calentita, a type of Yorkshire pudding – and you can get that too.
What was once a mecca for Brits seeking home comforts at Morrisons has developed into an altogether more sophisticated retail therapy experience.
And with border queues becoming a thing of the past, the tills are ringing and the Rock is back in business.
In convivial Casemates Square, chilled cafes set up inside the battlement walls spill out onto an expansive, sunlit plaza while bustling Main Street boasts shops to rival any traditional British high street, with Mediterranean sunshine thrown in.
Here you will find big name brands such as Marks & Spencer, BHS and The Early Learning Centre, as well as Next, Pandora, Boux Avenue, Holland and Barrett, Dorothy Perkins and F&F.
There is even an Apple store down a side street, not to mention various toy shops, antiques and homeware emporiums.
But they are interspersed with locally-owned and family-run emporiums selling everything from duty-free perfumes and cameras to cuddly toy monkeys. Clone town it is not.
Meanwhile, the downtown area has undergone a spectacular regeneration, complete with floral hanging baskets and smart black and gold signposts.
Of course, a fully-stocked Morrisons still has some specific treats the Costa del Sol cannot keep up with, while Eroski has recently started offering an extended range of Waitrose products.
The obvious draw for shoppers is Gibraltar’s VAT-free status and we’re not just talking about tobacco and alcohol. You can also save 21% on luxury items like perfume and designer sunglasses. And with zero import duty on electronic goods, computer software, DVDs and CDs and reduced duty for watches, jewellery, clothing and mobile phones, there are bargains to be had.
Plus, as the currency is British Sterling – although with specific notes – UK bank cards can be used without incurring exchange rate losses.
Meanwhile, although Spanish as well as English and the local ‘llanito’ patois are all spoken, opening times aren’t at the mercy of the siesta in the same way as Spain’s.
Most shops open on Sundays, especially when there is a cruise ship in town – an increasingly frequent occurrence, with 227 calls due this year.
Many Main Street shops are run by the direct descendants of the families who founded Gibraltar as a trading destination during the 1800s, thanks to its strategic location.
Jewellry dynasty the Budhrani family, opened their first shop, Essardas on Main Street, in 1918 and now have seven branches in town.
In contrast, the ICC Centre – where you will find the excellent Aimee Jay shop – offers undercover mall shopping, spread over two floors, with multi-storey parking on top.
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