05 November 2020

British Equivalents: Essential Retail Stores

When I moved to Brighton (Hove actually) for my UK sabbatical in 2019, it took an immense amount of brainpower and research to figure out where to find life essentials despite my many previous shorter visits to England. With the help of my handsome Englishman, I still continue to learn the British retail basics and know how helpful it can be to have a quick reference.

The ones I’ve listed here are national or regional chain (or the occasional online) stores since you can find them all over the United Kingdom and are easily accessible to new residents or visitors. In Great Britain, the main concentrations of shops are called “high streets,” and you can find a lot of these essential stores in one general area alongside smaller, independent shops, too. I prefer to shop local and small myself, but when you’re still getting to know what’s what in a whole new country, then you need a general starting point. And here’s that starting point!

If you love Target or need a big box lifestyle store:

  • Marks & Spencer (My top favorite, especially with basic/specialty groceries and ready-made lunches/dinners available in their Food Hall)

  • John Lewis

  • Asda (Note: This company is owned by Walmart.)

If you love TJ Maxx/HomeGoods or need a discount name brand store:

  • TK Maxx

  • Home Sense

If you love Michaels/Joann Fabrics or need a craft supply store:

  • Hobbycraft (Looks identical if Michaels and Joann had a baby. You’ll also find sewing, some home decor, Cricut, and other arts and crafts needs.)

If you love Goodwill/Salvation Army/CHKD or need a thrift store:
[Note: Thrift stores are called charity shops, and they are typically always run by non-profit organizations. You will see many, many, many of these on any shop street. You might even miss it because they aren’t as big as American thrift shops.]

If you love CVS/Walgreens or need a pharmacy:

  • Boots (Note: This company is owned by Walgreens.)

  • Superdrug

  • Lloyds Pharmacy (Note: Not to be confused with the bank of the same name.)

If you love Dollar Tree/Family Dollar/Dollar General or need a basic bargain store:

  • Poundland

If you love [insert your favorite U.S. large chain grocery store here] or need groceries:

  • Tesco (One of the largest national brands, a personal favorite)

  • Sainsbury’s

  • Morrisons (Another personal favorite)

  • Waitrose (Higher end and much like Whole Foods)

  • Aldi

  • Lidl

  • Iceland (Focuses on frozen food at low prices)

  • co-op

  • Ocado (online only)

If you love Home Depot/Lowe’s or need a home improvement store:

  • B&Q

  • Homebase

  • Wickes

  • Timpson (For house key replacements)

  • Robert Dyas (Classified as a hardware store, but also can get small kitchen & home appliances)

If you love PetSmart/Petco/Chewy.com or need pet care supplies:

If you love AT&T/Verizon or need cell phone services:

  • O2

  • EE

  • Vodafone

  • Giffgaff (My personal UK phone service - I was able to order a SIM card from the U.S. and get my phone prepared before I even landed at Heathrow.)

If you love Lenscrafters/Warby Parker or need eyeglasses:

  • Specsavers

  • Boots Opticians

  • Leightons (Southern England)

If you love Barnes & Noble or need books/magazines:

If you love Best Buy or need tech equipment:

  • Currys PC World

  • Argos

If you love Casper/Purple or need a modern bed mattress or pillows:

  • Otty (We personally purchased their hybrid mattress and love it.)

  • Eve Sleep (We personally purchased their pillows, and love them. Pricier than standard pillows, but I admit I'm a little bougie when it comes to doing anything to get quality sleep. No shame in my slumber game!)

  • Emma

  • Simba

Have other suggestions to share? Leave a comment below to help out!