Shopping has always been part of Australian culture for quite sometime. From the basic needs, to some people's hobbies, shopping in Australia provides one of the many opportunities to buy something back home.
In Australia, malls are usually described as large multi-storey buildings, and are often fairly new, while shopping centres (or shopping centers) are usually described as small single-storey, older, roadside malls, what would be called as a small strip mall in the US. However, Australia's largest shopping mall; Chadstone Shopping Centre contains "shopping centre" in its name, but called a mall in colloquial conversation.
When it comes to malls, retail stores and really anything to do with shopping, what you see in Australia is very similar to that of what you see in North America, and historically, Australia's shopping industry has been much more influenced by the United States, and not Europe. It can be seen when it comes to the size of shops, the range available, and the style. On top of that, due to the large amount of Asian influence Australia has had, there's a large number of Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Singaporean shops, particularly in Sydney.
Most Australian shopping malls and shops have much shorter hours than those in the United States. Shops usually open between 8 and 9, but some can open as early as 7AM and usually close between 6 and 7PM, but some close late at 8, except grocery stores/supermarkets which sometimes close at 11PM or even up till midnight. The only exception is on Thursday, where most shops close at around 9 to 10PM. The biggest exception is during the latter part of November until December 26, where stores are open up till 9 or 10PM throughout for the Christmas sales as well as the Black Friday sales – and these are often when malls get pretty crowded.
Australian banks are open Monday-Friday 9AM-4PM only, often closing at 5PM on Fridays. Cash is generally available through Automatic Teller Machines (ATM) 24 hours although that's starting to fade out, and currency exchange outlets have extended hours and are open on weekends.
Places to shop
Although malls weren't founded in Australia, the Americanization of Australia saw the large increase of malls, particularly in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Newcastle and Canberra while Adelaide has them but to a much lower scale. However, Hobart doesn't have large scale malls like the other cities, but rather they have more open-air shopping centres/malls. Smaller towns typically have one main street where most of the shops are located, and perhaps one shopping centre where you can find a few shops and a supermarket.
Inside a mall
What's found inside a mall is again similar to those found in the US, and they usually have the typical retail shops, a food court, some popup stores, specialty stores, and sometimes fruit stalls, although fruit stalls aren't found in all malls.
Although there are many types of retail shops in Australia, there are some that are of particular interest to the traveller:
- Anaconda and Kathmandu – these are the main two retail stores for hiking, camping or any sorts of wilderness activity. There is also BCF (short for Boating Camping and Fishing) although it is not as commonly found as the other two.
- Coles and Woolies are the two major supermarket chains
- Myer and David Jones are two large clothing retail stores, useful if you need to get some last minute gifts
- The main pharmacies (drug stores/chemists) include Amcal, Guardian, Chemist King, Discount Drug Stores, Priceline or PharmaSave.
There are many other retail stores but most of them aren't of interest to the average traveller, but most retail stores can easily be found in most shopping malls in most major cities.
Food courts are mostly just found at large shopping malls, and not in parks or small shopping centres. Usually, a mall would just have one but a large number of malls have two.
In general, a food court will almost always have a Maccas (Mcdonalds), a KFC, or an Oporto while the presence of a Hungry Jacks (Burger King), a Subway and other fast food chains varies depending on location. There may be a fish-and-chip shop in some food courts, while the rest is heavily based on local popularity. You're much more likely to find Asian cuisine in Sydney and Perth with other cuisines being almost non-existent, while in Melbourne, you're much more likely to encounter South Asian cuisine.
Popup stores are commonly found, although they are often centred in outdoor malls and in rural cities. Indoor malls may have some, but they are not as big as the ones you would find outdoors.
What's found in popup stores greatly varies, depending on region.
Fruit stalls in Australia greatly differ by region. You're very likely to find a fruit stall selling mangoes in the tropical cities of Cairns, Townsville or Darwin while you're more likely to find apples in Tasmania.
A food court in Sydney CBD's Queen Victoria Building
Food Court in MacArthur Central, Brisbane
A popup florist in Adelaide's Rundle Mall
A fruit stall also in Adelaide's Rundle Mall
Unlike the United States, you pay for what's marked, and the Goods and Services tax (what would be called a sales tax) in the US is already included in the price, not an extra 10 or so percent. Receipts usually include the GST price as well.
There is also a Tourist Refund Scheme in Australia where if you buy goods over $300 at one place at one time you can obtain a refund of the GST if you take the items out of Australia within 60 days and this applies to both Australian citizens and foreigners. Remember to get a tax invoice from the supplier (which will have the goods itemised, the GST paid, and the ABN of the supplier) and pack the items in hand luggage, and present the item(s) and the receipt at the TRS, after immigration and security when leaving Australia.
If any of the items have to be checked in for whatever reason, make sure that you locate the customs office and let customs officers sight the goods before checking-in your bags and allow at least an extra 30 minutes before departure, and if possible enter the details online before you arrive at the airport.
The refund payment can be made by either cheque, credit to an Australian bank account, or payment to a credit card. There is no refund available for GST on services. Remember the goods are now considered duty-free, and you'll have to pay GST on them if you bring them back into Australia and they are in excess of your duty-free allowances.
Unlike the US, tipping is not customary in Australia. Tips are accepted if you freely choose to give one, though Australians themselves generally do not tip.
Restaurants are required to include the cost of service and taxes in posted prices and while you may, however, choose to leave a small tip if the service was exemplary, it too, is very uncommon. When paying by credit card, some restaurants give the option of adding a tip to your payment, although it is completely optional and that too is uncommon. Other places provide a coin jar by the cashier labelled "Tips", and it's very rare to see it 50% full.
Other types of service personnel, including hotel staff, porters, tour guides, food delivery drivers and hairdressers do not expect to receive tips.
Tipping is also not expected in taxis, and drivers will typically return your change to the last 5 cents, unless you indicate that they should keep the change but unlike tipping in restaurants, it is not unusual for passengers to instruct the driver to round up to the next whole dollar.
Casinos in Australia generally prohibit tipping of gaming staff, as it is considered bribery. Similarly, offering to tip government officials will also usually be interpreted as bribery and may be treated as a criminal offence.
Duty free shopping in Australia can generally only be done in airports and Australian external territories such as Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. In some ports, you may find some duty-free items, although this may not be the case everywhere. As Australia has never had any city near an international border, duty-free areas such as the one between Zhuhai and Macau have never existed.