Bye-bye M&S, Hello Whole Foods: U.S. Shop Substitutes for British Expats

Whole Foods is the friendliest place on earth. (Photo via AP)

Many of your favorite British stores also have branches in the U.S. But you’ll need to find replacements for those that haven’t yet hopped across the pond. To help you out, here are our top shop alternatives.

Marks and Spencer
For high-end edibles – with price tags to match – try Whole Foods. And if you’re in New York, there’s also Union Market. They sell everything from artisanal cheese to vegetables you’ve never heard of. Alas, the M&S staple you might struggle to find here – or in any U.S. supermarket – is tasty, affordable ready meals.

John Lewis
The nearest equal to the stalwart British department store is probably Sears. But for John Lewis style furniture and knickknacks, you’ll have better luck in Pottery Barn or Crate and Barrel.

Waitrose
A lot of American supermarkets can feel a bit scrappy – and rarely do you get that delicious piped bakery smell. Trader Joe’s doesn’t smell of cake either, but it does stock own brand, reasonably priced groceries that remind me of Waitrose’s Essentials range.

Habitat
For sharp, modern furniture and imaginative accessories, head to CB2 – Crate and Barrel’s funkier sister store.

Selfridges
No U.S. department store measures up to this British grande dame, which is curious considering that Mr. Selfridge was an American. Over here, Saks, Barneys and Bloomingdale’s are passable alternatives.

Boots
All the big U.S. pharmacies – Rite Aid, Duane Reed, Walgreens and CVS – are serviceable replacements for our own, but scruffier and less well organized.

Homebase
If you need power tools or paint, head to Lowe’s or Home Depot. I recently purchased a plunger from a Lowe’s employee, who insisted on demonstrating on an invisible toilet before he’d make the sale. My point being, American DIY store staff are significantly more helpful than the ones we have back home.

Asda
Walmart owns Asda so it’s the obvious replacement, though you may also want to check out Target and JCPenny for clothes and home wares.

Maplin
For small electrical goods and long conversations with over-informed staff, head to Radio Shack.

Greggs
You’ll be hard pressed to locate a deliciously diabolical sausage roll, cream horn or bacon bap in the States. But Dunkin’ Donuts has a similar vibe and will serve you up something just as likely to clog your arteries.

T.K. Maxx
You’ve probably figured out already that T.J. Maxx is what they call it here. Can you see what they did there, with the “K” and the “J”? Of course you can. I’ll shut up now.

Waterstones
Anyone who still likes reading words printed on paper should check out Barnes & Noble – America’s biggest book chain. Stores usually have an internal Starbucks.

Mothercare:
For infant attire, toys and gadgets that promise to make tiny children go to sleep, American parents like Babies “R” Us and Target.

PC World:
A good range of computers and other consumer electronics can be found in what is possibly the most ambiguously named shop on the planet: Best Buy.

What other American replacements have you found for your shops back home?

  • Brit in the US

    I’d love to find replacements for clothes shops such as Next and Oasis ?

    I would say Banana Republic covers Warehouse back home.

  • World-Traveler

    Many Target stores have a Boots section . As an American who likes Boots’ products I was quite happy to find this!

  • Pauline Wiles

    Sears? Sears??!! You’ve got to be kidding. For the range of products, maybe, but the experience, quality and staff are about as far from John Lewis as you can get. I can’t actually think of a British store which feels as downbeat and depressing as Sears. I’m devastated you put them both in the same sentence.
    My advice for anyone missing John Lewis: book a flight to LHR. Or, next best thing, check out their export service, which is great. For a significant purchase,your saving on the VAT will cover most of the shipping cost.

    • dw

      Seconded: Sears is horrible.

    • Rachel

      Sears! If I were executives at John Lewis I would sue you for Slander. The closest thing I think we have to John Lewis would probably be Nordstroms. The service is usually excellent as well as the range of prices in the store. Also, unlike most stores in the US, there is almost always a cafe in the store for a little pick me up while shopping.

      • Pauline Wiles

        Yes, Rachel, I feel if we could cross Nordstroms with Target, I’d be a fairly happy bunny.

    • Pam

      Thirded, if that’s possible. Sears is dingy, drab and dreadful

  • dw

    When I’m back visiting family and friends in the UK, one of the things I miss most is Trader Joe’s :) And places that really are open 24 hours!

  • Guy Phipps

    This is a terrible ‘informational’ article. As mentioned, Boots is available in Target. Tesco masquarades as Fresh & Easy. Sears is horrendous and more Grace Brothers than John Lewis.
    The author needs to get out more and research before deceiving the masses.

    • Pam

      I think it’s been useful, but much of it is not easily applicable to rural areas where Walmart often rules. Back to online shopping I suppose!

    • buckeye

      I hardly ever go in Targets, thanks for letting me know about Boots, will have to go in next time I go that way

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002475128029 Joh Green

      and scruffier? man this article sucks

      • florida girl

        I agree, most of the US drugstores that I’ve been in (CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Duane Read (both urban and suburban) can be downbeat and depressingly badly lit compared to Boots.

  • Bill Kay

    It depends where you go. On the west coast, Bristol Farms is not a bad alternative to Waitrose.

  • Pauline Wiles

    PS – just visited Fresh & Easy for the first time. I believe they’re owned by Tescos. Not sure whether they reach across the US, but the range of ready meals was excellent. Oh, and they sell Branston Pickle ;)

    • http://www.facebook.com/sarah.spencer.1671 Sarah Spencer

      Fresh and Easy is in Metro Phoenix, AZ; Bakersfied, CA and the Las Vegas area.

  • Martha Turner

    Fresh Market, in east coast states, is a good substitute foe Whole Foods,and may be found in smaller cities.

  • buckeye

    Try Jungle Jims in Ohio, but Wal-Mart is a poor Asda, I,ve told them so too, got some good tights at Asda, made by George, but not over here, and look at Asda,s food section , you would never think that Asda was owned by Wal-Mart, you can get just about any thing you want at Asda, think owners at Wal-Mart should go over to England, and see how a real store is put together.

    • Patricia Hendricks

      Well said, I never shop at Walmart here or there and haven’t been in an Asda store in years….nor will I in future.

  • Pauline Wiles

    And, here’s final proof that Sears is not like John Lewis: JL does not have loose bears roaming.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-18949490

  • Surrey

    I just can’t believe that you compared Sears to John Lewis! Really??? Sears is good for tools, but not much else.

  • Jackie O

    I’m an American and lived in London for 5 years – this list is horrible! As many other have said John Lewis is NOTHING like Sears. Marks & Spencer’s doesn’t really have an equal here either – it’s not quite Whole Food. I much prefer M&S over Whole Foods. Boot products are available at Target – but as a general pharmacy, yes those work as equivalents. Also, calling American supermarkets ‘scrappy’?? Have you been to a TESCO express or a Sainsbury Express – talk about Scappy! Most supermarkets in the US are huge and far better stocked. Yeesh!

  • hwhamlin

    The English Pork Pie Company, located in Buffalo, NY.
    Maybe, if you’re lucky, they’ll ship to a market near you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002475128029 Joh Green

    WTF? this is a horrible article. You can’t compare like this, and then say things are scruffier and unorganised? plus, selfridges isn’t the end all and be all when you compare them to saks, and bloomingdales. Now if you were going to compare Harrod’s there is no comparison. Tesco and Target are pretty similar although i did like Tesco better for some things…Marks and Spencer is pretty unique i wish we had them here. Fresh and easy is only available in california and a few other choice places :/

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002475128029 Joh Green

    and yeah i agree with the whole Sears comment. :) John Lewis is no comparison

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002475128029 Joh Green

    in the end though…there’s NO comparison to any of these as i found out on my trip across the pond. I miss SO MANY things that you can only get in the UK. A lot of what we have here sucks in comparison. :/

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Janet-Riley/577709214 Janet Riley

    Recently heard that Walmart have bought Boots, so check out their stores in a few months. Walmart started selling George shortly after taking over Asda, so maybe the same will happen with Boots stock.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sarah.spencer.1671 Sarah Spencer

    AJ’s Fine Foods is a high end supermarket in Phoenix, AZ.