Other than the usual cheap souvenirs, I have not encountered much to buy here in Russia. I have combed all types of retail, from little street stands, to the one block large GUM department store. Most quality items are very expensive here. Cheap items, perhaps made in China, overpriced for tourists, abound, as you expect.
Name brands are all over the streets. I have seen labels like Armani, Versace, Nike, Swiss Army, TUMI, Lego, Cross, Tissot, Samsonite, adidas, Gucci, Rolex, Perrier, Moet et Chandon, Budweiser, Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, Sketchers, Columbia, Heineken, Nestle, Starbucks, and more. I could name hundreds, but I will stop. And I wonder about knock-offs due to their cozy relationship with China.
I think you get the idea. The global economy landed here after the fall of the Soviet Union. Capitalism is alive and well, thriving you could say. But I did not see many people buying. To say style is lacking is a gross overstatement.
The young girls are the best dressed people on the street. Everyone else falls into the “other” category, in need of weight loss, fashion makeover, or both. Add to the above, the ubiquitous cigarette smoke and body odor.
These must be working class towns and cities. Even in Moscow, only the young and beautiful were well dressed and out enjoying the city. It must be a small segment of society.
The one item that I wanted to buy, available only on the train, is the famous tea cup or glass, with the train decoration. I will attach a copy. It is actually a glass container that sits inside of a silver embossed holder. It is unique to Russia and the train, though other forms and decorations are available on land. The average cost that I see is around $60 to $70 USD, hardly worth it. So, skip it!
Here is the info: The podstakannik (Russian: подстака́нник, literally “thing under the glass”), or tea glass holder, is a holder with a handle, most commonly made of metal that holds a drinking glass (granenniy). Their primary purpose is to be able to hold a very hot glass of tea, which is usually consumed right after it is brewed. It is a traditional way of serving and drinking tea in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and other post-Soviet states.
The providnitsa provides one to each passenger upon boarding, and collects them when you are about to leave. They keep a careful count, like they do for sheets and towels. The glass can be used for any beverage, soup, even Russian vodka!
Other than that, I really cannot find anything to buy other than my usual refrigerator magnets, the stacking dolls, and some T shirts. Actually, it is not so easy to find decent T-shirts. I did buy one magnet, and some fine candies at a boutique.
But my guide did take me to a very upscale specialty food and gift store on Nevsky Prospekt. She said it is a remnant from the golden era of 1902, called Kupetz. But the prices are 21st century, from chocolates, to champagne, to fine cheese and sausage. This is THE place!
Bottom line, I do not think people from developed countries come to Russia for retail therapy. There are no great bargains here, unless you want a Cossack fur hat or the nearly ubiquitous matryoshka dolls.
I still have not seen a single golf course, or even a golf club or golf balls. Sport here seems limited to pfooootbol, a little cycling, maybe some swimming in the ice cold River Neva, and walking, which I have been doing. I think one of my hotels back on the first part of the trip had a small gym. I have seen a few kids on inline skates.
This is not Disneyland, or Beverly Hills, it is not even the factory outlets. But one thing it is for me, interesting. It is hard to walk by stores, shops, and street booths without taking a look. It is, after all, the other side of the world, the great unknown, and one of the reasons for coming.
Forgive me if I did not buy you anything from Russia. Most of it is from China anyway!