Shopping in Britain is quite easy but you might like to
invite a friend to go with you for the first time in case it all
appears a bit strange.
When to shop
Shops are usually open 9.00am-5.30pm Monday-Saturday, and in some
areas shops might close for an afternoon on one of these days. On
Sundays, some shops stay closed and
open – but for less hours than the other days in the week.
Supermarkets generally have longer opening hours than smaller shops
(some are open 24 hours a day!).
In many shops you help yourself to goods off the shelf and place
them in a basket or trolley. When you have completed your selection
you take it to a counter where you pay for what you have selected.
This is called ‘self service’. In smaller shops you
will sometimes find an assistant who will help you. In this case
just ask them for what you want.
A supermarket is probably a good place to start because it is
self service and you can walk around and choose items that you like.
Supermarkets often have an information desk where you can get information
about what you need to buy. When you go into a supermarket, always
collect a trolley or basket. Many supermarkets supply some international
foods. The main supermarket chains in the UK are : Sainsbury’s,
Tesco, Safeway, Morrisons and Asda, but you will also find some
discount supermarkets called Netto, Lidl and Aldi.
A few guidelines
If you’re not sure what a good deal is, ask someone to go
shopping with you and show you where to get the best product for your price range.
Everything should have a price on or near it and the law says
that the shop has to sell it to you for the lowest price that it
is marked at.
Most big stores use bar codes and scan the items at the checkout,
the price will be shown near the product (eg on the shelf).
Always get a receipt so that you can change things if there’s
The pricing of goods may be very different from your own country.
Different shops often sell the same goods at different prices. You
may be able to save money by comparing prices in several shops.
Here are some ideas of what things cost at the moment:
Onions (per kg) £0.64
Potatoes (per kg) £0.50
Tomatoes (per kg) £1.58
Apples (per kg) £0.99
Margarine (per kg) £0.95
Orange juice (per litre) £0.64
Beef (per kg) £8.00
Lamb (per kg) £9.00
Pork (per kg) £5.00
Chicken (per kg) £3.50
Cheese (per 500g) £2.50
Milk (per 558ml / pint) £0.32
Eggs (for 6) £0.75
Bread (per 800g loaf) £0.55
Dried pasta (per kg) £0.60
Basmati rice (per kg) £0.95
Cornflakes (per kg) £1.33
Flour (per 1.5kg) £0.44
Sugar (per kg) £0.73
Instant coffee (per 100g) £2.14
Teabags (for 80) £0.99
Washing powder for clothes (per kg) £1.56
Shampoo (per 200ml) £1.65
Soap (4 x 125g bars) £0.99
These prices are based on a Sainsbury’s supermarket in
London in 2005. Prices may vary between different supermarkets and
at different times of year.
Virtually all prices in shops are fixed so you will not be able
to bargain, unless the goods are damaged, in which case the shopkeeper
may agree to a lower price. However, if you are purchasing something
from a newspaper or other advert, it is usual to bargain.
Many of the charity organisations such as Help the Aged or Oxfam
have shops. Goods are donated to the shop, which then sells them
to raise money for the charity. It is worth finding out what charity
shops there are in your area. They are often a source of good quality
second hand goods such as clothes, kitchen utensils, furniture or
children’s clothing at very cheap prices. You may be fortunate
and just find what you want but it is worth having a look round
each time you go into town. You may spot something that you know
you will need in the future!
Claiming back VAT
All shops pay a tax on the goods they sell. This is called Value
Added Tax (VAT). The tax is part of the price you pay. If you are
only visiting the UK for a few months, you may reclaim the VAT you
pay. To do this, always ensure you get a note from the shop listing
all of the goods you buy and the price you pay. This note is called
a receipt. You should also ask the shop for a tax refund document.
You need to present the completed document and the goods to Customs
when you leave the UK. For more details, visit
HM Revenue & Customs website.
This guide is copyrighted © Friends International 2005. No
part of this work may be reproduced without
the written permission of Friends International.
Additional local information provided by Friends International in Guildford, 2007.