I've lived in Chennai since I was five years old and have become a true shopaholic. Here are my favorite places to shop!
Cheap Places to Shop in Chennai
You may be new to Chennai and unsure where to shop. Or perhaps you are a tourist to this bustling city and planning a shopping spree. For all the shopping advantages that Chennai offers, it's best to have some background information so you're ready to take advantage of deals while coping with the city's crowds.
Chennai is becoming more contemporary every day. Booming with IT, diverse culture, and shopping spots, Chennai offers goods from northernmost Kashmir to the southernmost tip of Kanyakumari. The cheap shopping will definitely keep you engaged and entertained.
We moved to Chennai when I was five years old. Since then, I have developed a thirst for shopping; my family even allocates time every month just to check out the new arrivals! It took me some time to find the best possibilities in the city. Here are Chennai’s best cheap shopping hang-outs.
The Best Shopping Districts in Chennai
- T. Nagar
- Pondy Bazaar
- Parry's Corner
Before we jump into the descriptions of each of these districts, I want to give you a few general tips about shopping in Chennai so that you get the best deals and have a great experience.
Tips for Shopping in Chennai
Some streets, especially Ranganathan Street, get very crowded. Here are a few key tips to navigating the area without incident.
- Guard your belongings.
- Don’t get lured by unbelievably cheap goods. There will be people selling T-shirts for even Rs.10 per shirt, but the quality will be poor.
- As much as possible, try to use public transport. Walk, if you can. You will enjoy the color of Chennai more this way.
- Apart from the giant shops listed here, you can also find good deals in smaller shops in and out of T. Nagar, for example Kalanjiyam and Ajmer Bag Shop.
T. Nagar District
T. Nagar is an incredibly popular shopping district, so most of this article will discuss the options in this particular area.
The festival season runs from November through January. This is both the best and the worst time to visit the neighborhood of T. Nagar.
During Diwali, Pongal (harvest festival), or New Year, the crowds in T. Nagar are unbelievable. Yet unimaginable discounts are also available. It is also the time when you see exotic varieties for sale. From my experience, I suggest you take advantage of these sales, but follow these tips:
- If you are enochlophobic (afraid of crowds), avoid town at that time.
- To avoid chaos, start shopping at 7 a.m. Be the first shopper to get into the bigger stores. The crowds come around 10 a.m.
- At this time, even the biggest retailers offer good discounts. Check out the bigger outlets first before you are lured into the cheap roadside shops. You may be able to get branded goods at never-before prices.
How to Reach T. Nagar
If you come to Chennai on a tour, shopping in T. Nagar should definitely be included on your schedule. Just ensure to allow at least three hours.
- By Train: Trains are the most comfortable way to travel. Get off at the Mambalam station. Come out of the station and you will be on Ranganathan Street. Walk straight and you’ll reach Usman Road.
- By Bus: Almost all buses stop in T. Nagar.
- By Car: Parking is not well organized. You may have to park far away and walk a while to get to the shops. Also, vehicles will be stopped during peak seasons. If you must drive, choose one primary shop where you are going to do most of your shopping and try to park close to that shop.
Walking T. Nagar
Textiles and Bespoke Tailoring
Many Chennaiites stay away from the big stores and buy textiles in the smaller shops on the street. Once you are acquainted with shopping on the street, you can have more control over your shopping experience.
A recent trend is to buy material and have a personalized salwar stitched in about an hour. There are many tailor shops overflowing with customers in cubicles, deep inside the street. Here's how it works:
- Get material from a store.
- Specify your design requirements.
- Spend about an hour in any of the nearby shops.
- Come back to find your new salwars with stunning stitching. Fees range from Rs.30 (Saravana Stores alone) to Rs.400.
Don't Forget the Accessories!
Wearing accessories that match the dress is increasingly popular in India. It all started with college students' craze for fashion. Now any soul with an X chromosome is crazy about fashion jewelry.
- Pandian Bangles: A small shop with really good accessories like bangles, big earrings, chains, and cosmetics. You can find accessory sets matching your dress from Rs.25 to Rs.3000. When you are in T. Nagar, do pay a visit to this shop.
- Saravana stores: offer a good selection, but goods move very fast there. An entire floor is devoted to accessories. The shop houses an exotic collection of fashion jewellery for all age groups in a wide price range.
- Road side shops, especially in Pondy Bazaar: These shops showcase a variety of trendy earrings, cheap fancy watches, and bags. The surprising thing is that you won’t find the same things the very next week!
So Many Bags, So Little Time!
Petite shops on Ranganathan Street and platform shops at Pondy Bazaar sell pretty bags from all over India at cheap prices. Road-side dealers sell bags from North India at half of their original prices.
Remember that if the shopkeeper claims a bag costs Rs. 250 (~$5), tell him you bought the same bag for your friend last week in some other shop for Rs.100! If he refuses, say angrily that you will get it at that shop itself and walk away! You will be called back for negotiation. Most of the time you will get the price you asked for.
Major Shops in Chennai
• Saravana Stores
• Big Bazaar Hypermarts
• RmKV Silks
• Kumaran Silks
• Nalli Silkhouse
Saravana Stores are India’s number one chain of retail stores. Customer service is not that good, but the prices make this worthwhile.
Deals to Look For
The stores of broken up into different buildings: Saravana Textiles and Saravana Jewelry. Make sure to check out what the shop sells before entering. There will be different buildings for Indian and Western clothing and materials, Gold, Silver, Diamond and Platinum, Jewelry, cooking items, electrics, furniture, food, accessories, footwear, and cosmetics.
- Really affordable
- Quick billing counters
- Easy to carry big purchases out through the back entrance avoiding the crowd.
- The salespeople will not treat you well.
Branches in Chennai
- Brammandamai, opposite Panagal Park
- Selvarathinam, opposite Ranganathan Street
- Selvarathinam (jewelers), opposite Prince, Usman Road
- Old T. Nagar, Ranganathan Street
- Anju Adukku, five floors
- Near Railway Station, Ranganathan Street, groceries and vegetables
- Selvarathinam (jewelers), Ranganathan Street
Big Bazaar Hypermart
Big bazaar is a new chain of "hypermarts" selling cheap and best-quality garments, groceries, home goods, accessories, and footwear. The store follows the model of Walmart and there are both independent Big Bazaars in Chennai and some locations in shopping malls.
When I first visited Big Bazaar, I picked out Rs.2000 worth of goods, but after adding all the discounts, I just had to pay Rs. 1500! Their business strategy is to attract customers by increasing the price on the tag and then discounting at the counter.
When you visit Big Bazaar, keep your ears sharp for instant discounts. They announce a discount every 10 minutes. Listen up and run to that section to find awesome discounts!
- Great discounts during festivities.
- Branded clothes are very cheap
- Best place to buy Western wear for women
- They don't allow trials on certain clothes which can't be bought without trying.
Big Bazaars in Chennai
RmKV Silks (Expensive, But Worth It)
RmKV is costly, compared to some other shops. But you will never return home disappointed from an RmKV shopping experience.
- Silks with mythological characters, intricate kolams, and paintings of Ravivarma. Themed silks are easy to find at RmkV.
- Generally a silk saree is stitched and converted into a bharatanatyam (traditioanl dance form of Tamil Nadu) costume. But dancers should spend some time hunting for the right patterned saree. RmKV makes that job easier by presenting the right kind of sarees to be stitched into a bharatanatyam dress starting, from Rs.2000 to Rs.9000.
- Of all their specialities, the most publicized is the Bridal Seven: Sarees to suit the seven occasions of South Indian marriages.
- Want a two-in-one saree? Try their reversible silk, which can be worn on both sides.
- Confused about which color to buy? Why not get the world's most colourful saree with 16,000 colors?
- Excellent customer service
- You might shell out some extra pennies!
Kumaran Silks, better known as Naalu maadi kumaran (4th floor), is the place to go if you are looking for unusual sarees.
- There are 3-D sarees which show one image when seen from one side and a totally different one when seen from the other.
- Sarees with a pouch for your mobile.
- Denim sarees.
- Ready-made sarees.
- My personal favourite is the "butterfly saree," which makes you seem like a colorful butterfly when you drape it.
- Though this place is a must-visit for sarees, you don't find any other interesting outfits.
Pothys: The "Temple of Silks"
Pothys describes itself as the temple of silks, with a huge colllection of salwars, dress materials, and men's wear.
- Samudrika pattu.
- Parampara pattu, woven with contemporary Uppada Jacquard work in traditional Kanchi silk.
- Vastrakala patty, a blend of North Indian embroidery on South Indian silk.
- Kutty sarees to fit kids from 1 to 9 years of age.
- Micro silks.
- Other interesting services include tarot card reading.
- Some products might not seem worth the price.
Nalli Silk House
Nalli is the oldest store to become established in Chennai. Many foreigners frequent this store. The ambience is traditional Indian upscale, with a selection of hand-picked and unique sarees and good customer service. Though Nalli doesn't advertise much, it is a favorite store in Chennai. Our family only purchases bridal sarees at Nalli.
- There is something for everyone, from bridal, cocktail, professional corporate, and casual wear.
- The Western outfits lack variety.
What is shopping in Chennai without a visit to Chennai Silks? This chain has sprawling showrooms in Chennai, Coimbatore, Tirupur, Erode, Trichy, Karur, Ernakulam, and even Paris, France. Chennai Silks does not produce innovative sarees, but the stock is good and long-lasting. If you go, check out their Guinness World Record.
- Collection includes wedding, reception, and gift silks.
- Vouchers available as gifts.
- The shop gets huge traffic during the high season and may lack variety during the off-season.
Major Shops and Their Locations
Time to Try a Saree!
Shops exclusively dedicated to accessories can be costly, but a good accessory store can be worth the time it takes to find the perfect item. JhillMill is one such outlet. This store is dedicated to fashion jewelry and accessories
Goods to check out: JhillMill offers a wide range of both chunky and elegant chains and necklaces, attractive hair ornaments and brooches, bangles and bracelets, romantic rings and anklets, trendy bindis and tattoos, and very stylish sarees.
Bombay Dyeing is one of India's largest textile producers. I remember my mom telling me that in her day, when the boom for textiles had not set in, they used to get a material from Bombay Dyeing (which had a monopoly in textile production long ago) and get it stitched. Today, you can still fall back on Bombay Dyeing for good quality curtains, bed spreads, and school uniforms. The hot news is that Bombay Dyeing has just introduced its exquisite bed sheets in the following unusual styles:
- With a special fragrance (rose, lavender, or musk)
- Enriched with Vitamin E
- Extra-soft feel and easily breathable.
- Can absorb perspiration and prevent allergy and bacterial growth
Not satisfied with T. Nagar? Come to 200-year-old Godown Street, once the hub of the textile business in South India. This street was once open to only wholesale traders, but with the advent of retail giants, this street is missing customers. You get the same textiles that you can get in T. Nagar, but at a 30–40% discount.
- In an effort to attract customers, many imported textiles are available from China, Taiwan, Thailand, and Pakisthan.
- You have to bargain a lot.
Sowcarpet: Simply Superb
Located in northern Chennai, Sowcarpet is filled with North Indians. The shopping potential of this area is still a well-kept secret even from long-time Chennai residents.
The reason is that, unlike T. Nagar, Sowcarpet is not well-connected by road or by rail. But once you shop there, you will never want to buy lehengas, cholis, or any North Indian or Western outfit anywhere else.
If you are looking for jazzy dress materials with good workmanship and elegant and chic western wear, you won't come back dissatisfied.
Shops to check out:
- Vijay Tex, in NSC Bose Road, has a good collection of items. Other shops, you can choose by window shopping.
- Not many people know about this area, so you have more breathing space.
- If you are new to Chennai, you will need help from a Tamil speaker.
How to Reach Sowcarpet
Sowcarpet is a bit far away from both railway station and the bus stand. Cars are ideal, as parking is easy here. Alternately, use the directions for Parry's Corner and take a cheap taxi to Sowcarpet.
© 2010 elizabeth21