Where are the best places in Amsterdam to shop? Explorer Publishing leads you through the stores, websites and services that boost your consumer confidence.
Stores, markets and shopping centres
Shopping in Amsterdam offers something for everyone, from the top fashion names located on the PC Hooftstraat to the high street chains on the Kalverstraat; from the small independent boutiques nestled in the Jordaan, to the long Albert Cuypstraat Markt, where fresh produce, household goods and textiles are all brought together in a vibrant mix of scent, sound and colour.
Prices compare well with other major European cities and are just above those in Hong Kong. There is a sales tax called BTW (omzet belasting), which is usually 19 percent, and sometimes 6 percent (for consumer basics and items such as flowers and books). Many centrally located shops offer tax-free shopping to visitors from non-EU countries; look out for the sign on the shop front.
In general Amsterdam shopping is affordable and enjoyable. Sales assistants can be a bit distant unless you ask for help, but you won’t be pushed into a purchase. The main annual sales start just after the Sinterklaas celebrations on 5 December, and the summer sales start in June. In the clothing sector, most shops have a quick turnover through the season collections, and many products are marked down within a few weeks of coming on the shelves. Look out for the racks marked ‘uitverkoopI’, ‘korting’ and ‘kopje’, or shops that offer ‘kassa korting’ on selected items.
Be aware that car parks in Centrum are overflowing on busy days. It’s easier to take your bike, or public transport. There are some excellent shopping centres with parking facilities on the outskirts; Boven t’Y Winkelcentrum is a mix of high street shops, open air market, and supermarkets. Woonmall Villa Arena and, next to it, ArenA Boulevard are centres for electronics, furniture and much more.
Whether tourist or resident, some items are unique to Amsterdam. The city is the centre of the diamond trade and you can buy jewellery or loose stones from one of many factories demonstrating diamond cutting. Amsterdam’s wealth also came from the tulip trade; tulip bulbs and a myriad of other plants are available all year in the flower market on the Singel. Souvenir shops all over the city offer the famous Delft blue china for a few euros, but for the real thing go to the and browse around the many specialist antique shops there.
Online shops (webwinkels) are popular in the Netherlands. The comforts of shopping from your armchair and home delivery as well as good consumer protection laws make it a logical choice for many. You can source most products online, from computer equipment, to furniture, to takeaway food. One national supermarket chain, Albert Heijn, has an online shopping service which promises to deliver to your kitchen. Its registration process is simple, and part of its website is in English.
There are several ways to pay for goods ordered over the internet: credit card, using iDEAL (the online payment system via your Netherlands bank account), cash on delivery (rebours), Paypal, or payment using an Acceptgiro once you receive the goods.
It is usual for a delivery fee to be charged and many online shopping sites have the facility to bill to one address and ship to another. Most sites will also advise what shipping method is being used (courier or post) and offer the option to track and trace your package.
If ordering something from outside of the Netherlands, you will be liable to customs duties unless the item is under EUR 22. There are also some goods that cannot be imported because they are forbidden or they require an import licence. Full details can be obtained in English on the Netherlands tax and customs website.
Refunds and Exchanges
Most shops have a clear returns policy which is displayed by the cashier. To avoid problems always keep the receipt and try to return goods in the original packaging. CDs, DVDs and videotapes which are no longer sealed will not be accepted.
HEMA, with branches all over the Netherlands, has a very sympathetic returns service, and any branch will exchange an item even if bought at another location.
Most outlets will offer to exchange your unwanted item, but a shopkeeper is not obliged to give you your cash back, you may be offered other goods to the value of the item you are returning. In some stores, items bought at reduced price will not be exchanged, but in the case of a faulty item you should be able to get a refund.
Shopping over the internet gives you more rights as you are not able to see the item before purchasing, so returning something because it is the wrong size, colour or quality is accepted. There is a cooling off period for internet sales, and you have seven working days to cancel the sale after you receive the product if you do not want it. Wehkamp has a good returns policy and will pick up an unwanted article and replace it within 24 hours.
There are some exceptions to the internet cooling off period: fresh food, products with a time limit such as concert tickets, personally tailored items, travel, financial services, and, again, CDs DVDs and video tapes which are no longer sealed are usually not eligible.
As a consumer your contract is with the shop even if the item has a factory guarantee so make sure you have proof of purchase. If you make an arrangement with the salesperson, for instance the delivery date or time, make sure it is written on the receipt. Do not delay in letting the shop know if an item is faulty, or a delivery is not complete. If you are not satisfied with the shop’s response there is an independent mediating body which can be called upon to settle disputes.
Before it comes to that, however, you can get a lot of information about your consumer rights on the website www.consuwijzer.nl, although this is in Dutch. Free legal advice is available by phone at the Rechtswinkel Amsterdam (020 673 13 11).