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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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?

Ruth Margolis

Ruth Margolis

Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.
View all posts by Ruth Margolis.
  • Pauline Wiles

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

  • 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 😉

    • 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.

  • 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

  • Pauline Wiles

    And, here’s final proof that Sears is not like John Lewis: JL does not have loose bears roaming.

  • 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.

  • gallifreygirl2007

    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.

  • gallifreygirl2007

    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 :/

  • gallifreygirl2007

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

  • gallifreygirl2007

    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. :/

  • 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.

  • Sarah Spencer

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