I got it at Primani, dahling. Why frugal tourists love London’s Primark.

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primark store london oxfordWalking down London’s Oxford street, you can’t miss the sea of aqua blue shopping bags hooked on the arms of nearly every shopper.  Follow the trail of bags and you will be led back to their mothership– Primark.

What the heck is Primark?

Primark is London’s answer to the discount department store, a cross between the fast fashion of an H&M and the home goods of a Target, with some British whimsy thrown in.  Like Target “Tar-zhay”, Primark has even earned its own faux designer moniker– “Primani”.

While Primark might be a great spot for locals to stock up on everyday essentials on the cheap, I wasn’t sure if it had anything that would interest a visitor here on vacation.

Then I received a tip that tourists recently were seen raiding Primark for its super cheap London-themed souvenirs.  In the interest of research, I went to Primark to check it out.

shopping at primark store london oxford

Brace yourself, shopping in Primark can be a chaotic experience.

Navigating Primark:  For Hardy Shoppers only

I had barely stepped through the front door of Primark when I started to feel dizzy– Primark is insanely crowdedIf you have a non-shopper in your party, I would strongly recommend you drop them off at a nearby pub before venturing in or you won’t hear the end of it later.  For expert shoppers exhilarated by bumping elbows and rummaging for bargains, you’ll have a blast at Primark.  For everyone else I recommend you follow my suggested shopping strategies:

1.  London Tote Bags, £1.5
First, head upstairs to the main cash registers.  Here you’ll find racks of tote bags with classic London designs.

gift london primark souvenir british flag tote

These bags are possibly the cheapest non-food London souvenir I’ve gift london primark souvenir british flag tote

At only £1.50, these totes are so inexpensive that you can afford to buy a dozen of them.  Pop in some British biscuits and candy bars, and you’ll have DIY London gift bags, ready for mass distribution when you head back to the office.

2.  London Souvenir Pillows, £4
Next, head to the bedding department.  Here you’ll find a selection of London themed souvenir pillows.

cheap london gift bus pillow primark souvenir

cheap london gift telephone box pillow primark souvenir While you can find posher London pillows elsewhere, I challenge you to find a pillow for less than £4.  I’d heard that tourists had been seen buying these pillows in multiples and removing the inserts for easy packing, presumably to re-stuff back home.  While this sounds like a lot of trouble, for the thrifty and crafty, it could be an economical option. The helpful employees in the bedding department also let me know that they sometimes get in Union Jack themed duvet covers, which sounded like they might be worth a look.

3.  Other London-ish souvenirs
Scattered throughout Primark, you’re likely to come across other everyday items with some British flair that might make a good souvenir or gift for someone back home.  Here’s what I found on my visits.

cheap london gift british flag backpack primark souvenirBritish flag themed backpack, £6.

cheap london gift british flag water bottle primark souvenirUnion Jack Water bottles, £2.

london gift cath kidson inspired toiletry bag primark souvenirCath Kidson “inspired” cosmetics bag, £4.

one direction candy gift One Direction candy (?)

 london gift british flag socks primark souvenir London themed socks, £2.  While socks might seem like a lame souvenir, at £2 for 3 pairs, you won’t go broke.

3.  British whimsy at Primark

What I refer to as “British whimsy” others might call downright ridiculous. In any case, Primark has plenty of fun items that are guaranteed to make you crack a smile.  My picks–

unique gift london chihuahua pillow primark souvenirThis pillow featuring a regal chihuahua sporting multiple strands of pearls will lend a sophisticated touch to any drawing-room.

unique gift london slipper socks primark souvenirThese slipper socks adorned with ambiguous cartoon characters (is that cookie monster?)  will keep your toes toasty.

unique gift london christmas sweater googly eyes primark souvenirAnd finally, this brilliant jumper captures two hot trends at once– the Christmas sweater craze and everyone’s favorite, googly eyes— so really, how can you go wrong?  Modeled by one of my favorite travel bloggers, the always in-the-know Adam of the top-rated, hipster travel website Travels of Adam.

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Have you shopped Primark while visiting London?  Share your finds in the comments below!

Want to read more London posts?  Start here:
A walk through the Harry Potter gift shop at Platform 9 3/4, London
Why this New Yorker loves the London Underground (and my picks from the London Transport Museum Shop)
Big Ben, the British Flag and a Telephone Box:  Why we love British Kitsch
Fashion Forward Brits Declare Love for the Onesie– Not just for Babies

London Souvenir Shopping Details:
Primark (various locations, I visited the store closest to Marble Arch Station)
499 – 517 Oxford Street
London, W1K 7DA
Store Hours:
Sunday 12:00 – 18:00
Monday-Friday  08:00 – 22:00
Saturday 08:00 – 21:00

Photos all by Souvenir Finder, Copyright 2013 except Christmas sweater, courtesy of Travels of Adam, used with permission.

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17 Responses to I got it at Primani, dahling. Why frugal tourists love London’s Primark.

  1. sueslaght 11/19/2013 at 6:56 pm #

    Now the question is did you walk away with one of those Christmas sweaters for yourself? 🙂

    • Kristin Francis 11/19/2013 at 7:13 pm #

      Sue– thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!
      I completely missed the sweaters on my trip or I would have scooped one up! I actually love the googly eye tree. My friend Adam– who has a keen eye for this stuff– supplied me with the sweater photo from his own shopping excursion. If you like the sweater photo you’ll love what’s coming up in my next post– adult onesies!

      • sueslaght 11/19/2013 at 7:24 pm #

        Onesies! Maybe that’s what I need for running in this bloody cold weather. It would be quite the look don’t you think?

    • Kristin Francis 11/19/2013 at 9:08 pm #

      Sue I actually think I read about a onesie race in London! Maybe you can start a new trend in Canada?

  2. Beatrice 11/19/2013 at 8:37 pm #

    Funny to read this post as I really wanted to love Penney’s (Dublin’s version of Primark) when I went a few months ago, but I couldn’t find anything I like that wasn’t quite expensive for what it is…

    • Kristin Francis 11/19/2013 at 9:12 pm #

      Beatrice, thanks so much your comment!
      I only realized when I was researching this post that Penney’s was under the Primark brand. It was on my Dublin hit list but I never made it over there as it was on the opposite end of town from my hotel (I was staying right by the conference). Good to know I didn’t miss anything.

  3. The Travelling Chopsticks 11/20/2013 at 6:46 am #

    I LOVE this! When I lived in the UK I could only stand being in Primark for a short while, before I felt that I was suffocating!! But I would never have thought of going there for souvenirs! What a great idea, and next time I’m in London, I think I need to get myself that chihuahua cushion cover – love british humour 🙂

    • Kristin Francis 11/20/2013 at 8:46 am #

      Aww thanks! Exactly, you need to hold your breath and run in and out– which is why I felt compelled to write a “guide” lol. They had the chi cushion cover on both my visits, so maybe it’s a part of the standard collection.

  4. fingknitcoolgal 11/20/2013 at 7:01 am #

    I hate anywhere crowded, therefore, Primark has been off-limit for a long time. However, buying inexpensive souvenir in bulk, what a brilliant idea!! My mom nags me to buy gifts to her friends – a typical & very annoying Japanese custom, which I find rather costly. A tote for £1.50? Sounds like a god send solution (^0^)

    • Kristin Francis 11/20/2013 at 8:49 am #

      Exactly! I like to pick up small gifts for friends who don’t travel much, or for co-workers who cover my *** when I’m out on vacation. They don’t care and wouldn’t notice if it’s a cheap bag from Primark or something fancy from F&M so why not get the cheap fun stuff.

  5. Sandra 11/24/2013 at 10:23 am #

    Thats bargain gift shopping. Great idea. I’d never of thought of that place.

  6. PurpleTravelKate 01/16/2014 at 8:49 am #

    I got my Christmas Jumper in Primani (in Ireland) last October, they seriously know how to get you an early bargain! 🙂

    • Kristin Francis 01/16/2014 at 9:00 am #

      Haha that must have been fun to wear over the holidays!

      • PurpleTravelKate 01/16/2014 at 9:14 am #

        Absolutely! In fact, it’s a bit of a thing for everyone to wear ridiculous Christmassy jumpers over the season 😀

  7. Joy 06/05/2015 at 6:16 am #

    I actually found out about Primark when I arrived without some lighter weight clothes. Found some great t-shirts to tide me over. While there I discovered the 1.50 totes, great souvenir. I bought 13 of them then got home and realized I should have bought more. Tried eBay, 4.99 pound with 9.99 pound postage! What a rip off. Anyone in London want to send me some! Lol

  8. Vivi Gomez 10/03/2015 at 11:44 pm #

    i followed your advise and went looking for the Primani gifts when I was in London 🙂 bought a bag full of cheap & cute London-themed souvenirs… and then left said bad at a bus stop, forgotten, gone forever 🙁 I got back to Primark before they closed for the day to restock and they had sold out on the London-themed products! I was left gift-less </3
    So if you go, don't go near closing time becuase they could sold out and most importantly, don't forget your shopping bags in the middle of the street. Anyone in London want to help me buy socks and totes?

    • Kristin Francis 10/10/2015 at 11:08 am #

      oh no! I have left a shopping bag before (easy to do when you are balancing many things). Sounds like you have a mission for your return visit!

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