One of the great pleasures of Macao is that even though it’s one of the world’s major vacation destinations, it has managed to retain its small-town vibe. You could spend all day shopping in Macau by wandering its shopping malls, browsing the international labels that run the gamut from A. Testoni to Zara and everyone in between.
While there’s no shortage of top quality and an endless range of goods, Macau is also dotted with smaller-scale independent stores – quirky, fun, imaginative outlets that sum up the city’s entrepreneurial spirit.
The other side to the former Portuguese enclave’s retail offerings is individual, unique, one-of-a-kind. So, when it comes to creative with a capital C, it pays to search out some of Macau’s more unusual and eclectic ateliers.
Besides, shopping away from the mainstream is very often an entertainment in itself, and many of the owners seem to be more concerned with operating a pleasant environment than simply seeking out cold hard cash from yet another punter.
And even if you’re not in the mood to actually buy, browsing Macau’s mini-stores is entertainment in itself.
Shopping in Macau
1- Buddy Candy Store
Even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, you can’t fail to enjoy yourself amid the sheer spectacle that is Buddy’s.
Just about every single form of confectionary is temptingly arrayed here, like something out of Hansel and Gretel but without a witch lurking in the corner.
There are lots of cartoon characters, with special guest star appearances by Disney and Hello Kitty among others.
It goes without saying that Buddy Candy Store is incredibly popular, with regular customers dropping by either for a quick sugar fix or picking up a present for a birthday or some special celebration.
Buddy Candy Store is at 14, Patio de Chon Sau; +853 2835 8222
2- Sartor Lab
Everyone’s heard about the legendary 24-hour-suit that you can buy in Asia – one that’s put together in a matter of hours for just a handful of dollars.
Sartor Lab is the complete opposite of such breakneck tailoring, providing the sort of bespoke service that would make Savile Row look to its laurels.
Set aside time for at least two fittings, and maybe a third to be on the safe side.
Sartor also runs a corporate service, assembling outfits for executives for either for a special occasion or daily use. And for the executive in a tearing hurry, there’s also a neat selection of ready-to-wear.
Sartor Lab is at Macau Store: 78Av. Counselor Ferreira Da Almeida, Kou Si Tak Garde; +853 6557 2640 and at Taipa Store: Avenida Olimpica N’s 293-297, Flower City EDF, Peonia Res-do-chao +853 6363 3771
Welcome to artisan land. The main attraction of Re-Elements is the leather workshop, where the chief craftsman hosts sessions in making wallets, passport- and card-holders and similar objets d’art.
Call ahead to book a session. Otherwise, take a stroll around to peruse some of the leather goods which have already been made – everything from shoes to wine carriers.
There are some other amusing bibelots as well, such as candles shaped like animal heads.
Re-Elements is at 10/F, Shun Lee Mansion, Rua Sao Louis; +853 2856 0003
4- Quarter Square
While online shopping might be making some retailers re-examine their business model, Alberto Chan – proprietor of Quarter Square – can relax safe in the knowledge that the Internet offers no challenge to his combined café and boutique which also boasts a roof terrace.
Housed in a two-storey village residence, Quarter Square stocks interior design products from Denmark, brass homeware from Japan, and Swedish skincare products, to highlight three of its more eclectic offerings.
Added to which is a real sense of style, something that’s sadly lacking in many everyday retail
Added to which is a real sense of style, something that’s sadly lacking in many everyday retail emporia nowadays.
Quarter Square is at 89 Largo Maia de Magalhães; +853 2857 6914
For those in the know, Anton spells antiques.
Macau was once a mini Aladdin’s Cave for anyone fond of old furniture and the like, but the number of such shops has shrunk in recent years.
Rather than just Chinese antiques, Anton carries pieces from all around the world, as well as more modern items which are just stylish or unusual in some way.
Prices are eminently reasonable, and the staff and knowledgeable and helpful in the extreme.
Anton is at 16 Rua dos Mercadores, Taipa; +853 6675 3663
6- Macao Fashion Gallery
For the past five years, the Macao Fashion Gallery has been trumpeting the city’s take on style, showcasing young designers’ creations in the heart of St Lazarus, one of the city’s most picturesque districts.
Despite being a government initiative, the gallery is in no way, shape or form fuddy-duddy.
It stages exhibitions, seminars, workshops and similar activities on a regular basis, and on top of pop-up stores there is also a regular shop. And it’s not just local designers, as international names are sometimes invited to show off their work here too.
So, anyone who fancies getting one of the early designs of one of the fashion stars of tomorrow should simply drop by the Macao Fashion Gallery.
Macao Fashion Gallery is at 47 St. Lu’s Street; +853 2835 3341
7- The Village
Not so much a shop as a market, The Village comes to life at weekends. No two are ever quite the same, as themes embrace – for example – recycling, book exchanges, or local handicrafts, spiced up with some form of entertainment such as live music performances, dance classes, movie screenings, art exhibitions, drama, magic shows, painting and design workshops.
The Village is one of the city’s most happening venues, patronised by a hip and friendly crowd.
The Village is tucked away in the Broadway Centre Building on Rua do Campo in downtown Macao.
8- Worker Playground
Worker Playground is housed in the Macau Design Centre.
It’s a fashion label whose flagship product, a leather-sleeved varsity jacket, represents street culture while mingling vintage and modern styles.
Worker Playground emphasises high-end fashion, with particular attention paid to detail and quality.
Worker Playground is at US Deputy General Manager, 11th Floor, Xinmei Industrial Building, 50 Da Ma Road, B,; +853 28757511
9- Ox Warehouse
In Central Macau, Ox Warehouse used to be an abattoir – but it’s not just vegetarians who’ll be pleased by its new role as an art space workshop, gallery and mini café.
The overall aim is to foster individual creativity and encourage experimental spirit by organising regular inspirational art workshops.
Ox Warehouse is at 87, 97 Av. do Cel. Mesquita; +853 2853 0026
Zawood presents something of a surprise: it’s almost like entering a jungle in downtown Macau.
Every piece of the solid wood furniture on display emits a natural ambience, as the owner is devoted to transforming old pieces of timber into useful and decorative artefacts for the home.
Zawood is at MacauPatio do Cel. Mesquita, G/F, Block 2, Meisuke New Village, 16th; +853 2851 9394
11- Master Club Toy & Gift Shop
There’s a similar feel at Master Club Toy & Gift Shop on Rua da Gruta.
Here you’ll find anime books, figurines, and movie props, all designed in Macau and intended to develop the city’s thriving anime scene.
Master Club also sells regular toys and souvenirs, including many limited edition items and collectibles.
Of course, it’s not just children who find this shop so entrancing.
Master Club Toy & Gift Shop is at Rua da Gruta, No 46, Edf. Jardim de Kam Ma Garden, R/C; +853 2895 5816
12- Smiths Creation
Smith’s Creation is a goldsmith’s with a difference.
The owner works on site using traditional techniques to fashion intricate and decorative pieces that are very reasonably priced.
For anyone staying a while in Macau, there are also courses in gold-smithing.
Smith’s Creation is at Rua da Bazarinho; +853 6611 3304
13- Obèse Plein
Another truly individual craftsman in Robert Lai, who was born and bred in Macau and later went on to study at the School of Art in Chicago.
Having designed costumes for such celebrities as Faye Wong and Eason Chan, he decided to launch his own label – Obèse Plein — and currently specialises in outfits that sport an unorthodox use of fabric combinations, multiple layering, fluidity and geometric influences.
His studio is at Calcada do Gaio, and open every weekday.
Obèse Plein is at Calçada do Gaio, No 3D, Edf. Tong Hei, R/C; +853 2852 3294
14- Casa de Artesanto Nam Fan Lou
It’s rare to find a Macau shop which specialises in a single item, which is one of the reasons why Casa de Artesanto Nam Fan Lou is so unusual.
Fans are part and parcel of Chinese culture and have been prized since ancient times.
Nam Fan Lou sells a rich variety of novelty fans imbued with local flavour, be they folding, paper, round, silk, or bamboo.
Fans themed with celebrities or decorated with intricate calligraphy are highly esteemed by collectors.
Casa de Artesanto Nam Fan Lou is at Rua do Bispo Medeiros +853 2852 3217
15- En Masse
Travel inspires the owner of En Masse.
As a result, shoppers can select leather products and other knickknacks from around the world which have provided a source of inspiration.
The shop is something of a travellers’ gathering place, and customers are encouraged to share anecdotes and stories with the staff.
En Masse is at Rua de Luis Joao Baptista; +853 6268 2677
16- AO2 Handbag Design Shop
AO2 Handbag Design Shop, in Sun Star City, does what it says on the tin.
There’s a vast collection of bags here, made out of different fabrics with varied patterns featuring fresh, trendy simple and personalised styles, with a particular appeal for the younger Macau shopping crowd.
AO2 Handbag Design Shop is at Baima Xingda City 2nd floor ao room; +853 2838 9296
17- Pin-to Livros & Musica
Books and vinyl may seem to be going out of mainstream fashion nowadays, but that’s not the case at Pin-to Livros & Musica, spread over two floors tucked away at the side of Largo do Senado.
Customers are more than welcome to slow down, kick back and browse to their hearts’ content. The books concentrate on the humanities, art, and design, while the music section covers pretty much every genre under the sun.
Pin-to Livros & Musica is at G/ F , 47 Liansheng Street; +853 2833 0909
18- San Lee
Finally, San Lee’s name is one to conjure with shopping in Macau.
One of the city’s hottest fashion designers, he disdains colour for a palette of black, white and grey, which allows him to develop experimental clothes.
His unisex wares are on display at weekends at ZICS, on Rua de Francisco Xavier Pereira.
Wherever you’re shopping in Macau, it’s worth recalling that bargaining is not unknown in smaller establishments.
Gently requesting a discount if you are buying a large selection of goods is usually rewarded by a modest reduction, or perhaps a free gift. After all, it never hurts to ask.
Ed Peters lives in Hong Kong and is a regular visitor to Macao.
Where else to shop in Macau?
Macao is well-known for impressive luxury resorts, which are packed with high-end boutiques and brand-name stores.
Taipa Village is Macau’s hippest neighbourhood and where you’ll find several shops, galleries and cafes.