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Retail Therapy posted Jan. 2007

Hi Everyone

Well, we're into the New Year, and just like England that means - The Sales!! Plus, we've been here two months now and seem to have spent a large proportion of our time in various shops. So, as we now consider ourselves experts, this letter is on - Shopping.

When I came to New Zealand in 1976, my memory is that all manufactured goods were very expensive, and there wasn't a large choice. I can remember my cousin asking us to send her over balls of wool, because they were so expensive - weird when you think of all the sheep over here! But food was relatively cheap - especially beef and lamb.

Things have changed now. Generally, we find that there is a good selection of manufactured goods, although not quite the same range as in the UK. But then there isn't the size of market to support such a wide choice. And generally manufactured things are about two-thirds the price of the UK. Food, though, is relatively expensive (but beef and lamb are still reasonable).

Electrical Stores

There is a good selection of electrical stores competing against each other - not just Currys and Comet - and I don't think we've paid the asking price for anything yet (except maybe the kettle). Most places seem open to a bit of bargaining. And electrical goods do differ here. We've yet to see an upright vacuum cleaner - they're all ones you pull behind, and even these aren't the same as the cylinder ones in the UK. Dyson are very expensive too. You can get dishwasher draws too - two stacked on top of each other instead of the large pull-down door that we're used to. The other thing I'm missing is my sandwich toaster - the ones here don't seal the edges, they just make them look like crinkle cut crisps! So Clive will be bringing me one out when he comes in late February (it's on its way to you, BTW, Clive).

DIY

Another place we've spent a lot of time (and money) in is Bunnings, the local DIY store. There are a number of DIY chains like Placemakers and Mitre 10, but we're definitely Bunnings people. In fact , we need a Bunnings loyalty card, or shares in the place! The nearest shop to Bunnings in the UK is B&Q warehouse - but it sells even more, with sections for household accessories like ironing boards, pegs, laundry baskets, etc. The staff are just like B&Q staff too - mostly semi-retired, and very helpful. You only have to walk past one, and they ask you if they can help! Again, most things are very reasonably priced - but with a few noticeable exceptions.

1. Rawlplugs - they're a fortune! $6 NZD for 10. So - if anyone feels like bringing us a present, bring rawlplugs!

2. Paint (and similar things). First - you can't get non-drip paint, and second, it's also very expensive - $100 NZD for just 4 litres.

3. Wood - expensive, but it does seem to be good quality.

By the way, did I mention it's called Bunnings?

And I must expand on the average New Zealander' typical reaction to the request for Non-Drip Paint. Quote 'Non-Drip Paint? Never heard of it. All paint drips, doesn't it?' The South Africans know what I'm talking about though.

There are a few other things that it seems impossible to get, too, like 7“ x 5” photographic paper (you can get 6“ x 4” really easily, but it doesn't fit in the five frames we've brought over with us). So we'll be looking at getting some sent over from somewhere if we can't find any in a specialist shop.

Food

And so on to food. And I'm really missing Marks and Spencer's pre-packed food. Surprisingly, food here is relatively expensive, and there is relatively little selection of processed food. What you won't find is that huge selection of flans that you find in the chiller cabinet - there will be a couple of cheese and bacon quiches, and that's that. The other thing that surprised me is that there are shops that sell the most amazing selection of meat pies - but there is a total lack of choice of meat pies in the supermarkets. And as for 'TV dinners' - well, there are a couple of 'Lean Cuisine' and pizzas in the freezer section, but nothing in the chiller cabinet. And deli stuff like specialist cheeses are through the roof. But there is a good selection of fresh food, and there are many more small shops. Quite often you find a butcher, green grocer and a bakers next door to each other on a small out-of-town section. The Chinese (mainly from Hong Kong following the British returning it to China) are the Auckland shopkeepers here, often running the corner shops and most of the green grocers. This means that we can get a good selection of Chinese sauces for stir fries - but there are very few Indian products (so I'm missing my Indian curries). So it looks like I'm going to be using my recipe books to cook everything from basics!

It's been very confusing trying to find out which shops sell what too. The NZ 'Warehouse' is a bit like UK 'Woolworths', and NZ 'Woolworths' sells food! But 'Farmers' doesn't (even though it sounds like it should) - it's a department store like Debenhams. Any shop with 'Plastic' in the title sells household accessories like storage boxes, kitchen utensils and bathroom things, and if you see 'Manchester', it's not the town - it's towels and linen! (we're still trying to work that one out - maybe it's because it's where it used to be made - in which case why isn't everything else called 'China' - or would that completely confuse everything?)

Cars and Boat Maintenance

As Auckland has a huge boating community, there are things for boats everywhere. Repco and Supercheap Auto are the equivalent of Halfords - but probably one third of the shops are set aside for boat maintenance.

Anyway, hopefully we've bought all the big things now, so our retail therapy days are coming to an end.

So here's to a prosperous New Year (and a job to pay for all those purchases!)

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