ernest--Here's another article from your own local newspaper International Herald Tribune on why you should go to New York City to shop next month. "Crossing the ocean for bargains \t By Thomas Crampton International Herald Tribune \t Saturday, December 18, 2004 NEW YORK For his first trip to New York, Michael Upton, 42, an electrician's assistant from Birmingham, England, wanted to make the most of his four-day pre-Christmas visit. . Like others on his flight, Upton and his girlfriend scheduled time for an activity that is proving increasingly popular this season among Europeans: crossing the Atlantic to shop in America for European luxury goods. . "I can't say we would buy these things back home too often," Upton said, appearing mildly uncomfortable as he looked around the Lacoste boutique on Fifth Avenue. "But with these prices it would seem mad not to look." . His girlfriend paid $179 for a zippered cardigan - by comparison, a similar Lacoste cardigan in London retails for Â£130, or about $250. . The fall of the dollar against euro - more than 50 percent since February 2002 - has turned the United States into a euro-shopper's paradise. As of September, inbound tourism from Western Europe was outpacing the previous year by more than 15 percent, with 6.9 million visitors, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. . With the approach of the holiday season, European visitors have been drawn to America by the prospect of buying homegrown items far more cheaply than they could at home. . "In London, I'd never buy British luxury goods," said Claerwin James, 34, a painter visiting for a few days. "But this morning when I saw that Paul Smith handbag I've been eyeing for the last nine months, I really felt tempted." . A London resident flying to New York will pay $1,395 for a lined Burberry trench coat, compared with a London price of Â£855, or $1,650. . At the Colette Boutique on Rue Saint-HonorÃ© in Paris, a shopper will pay about â‚¬1,000, or about $1,325, for a Prada leather handbag, while a shopper in New York will pay about $1,000 at Saks Fifth Avenue. . Sales clerks at the Burberry, Prada, and Gucci boutiques on Fifth Avenue said they had been serving more Europeans this year than in any year in recent memory. The Europeans are also helping other New York businesses. Upscale French restaurants are reporting an influx of European clients. . "A few years ago we would have 2 European clients per night at most," said Ronan Henaff, general manager of Atelier, the modern ProvenÃ§al-style restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park. "Now we have 10 or more." . Dining in New York has always been relatively inexpensive compared with Paris, Henaff said, but now diners from Europe get an additional discount. . Alain Ducasse, the multi-Michelin-starred French chef, operates luxury restaurants in top-scale hotels on both sides of the Atlantic. The three-course set menu at Ducasse's Essex House in New York costs $150, or about â‚¬110, an amount that would not cover the least expensive appetizer-plus-main-course on the menu of his restaurant in the HÃ´tel Plaza-AthenÃ©e in Paris. . Some Europeans who live in New York are sniffy about the "invasion." . "Personally, I prefer to serve Americans over the French," said Henaff, a Frenchman who has live in New York for six years. "The French complain nonstop because they cannot smoke, and then they do not even leave a tip." . For their part, Europeans can get confused shopping in a country where sales tax is not included in the price on the tag, as it is at home, but added on at the register. Upton, the electrician, said he found it strange that while Lacoste tagged his girlfriend's cardigan at $165, sales tax pushed the price to $179.23. . While tempted by European brands, some visitors fear counterfeits. . "We will buy some Ralph Lauren here, but not a French or European brand," said Annie Mitton, a Parisian shopping at Prada in Greenwich Village. "There are so many fakes in this country you may not buy the real thing, right?" . Other visitors groused that the lower cost of luxury goods had actually increased their bills this season. . "It is true that our purchases of luxury goods may have been â‚¬600 cheaper by coming to New York," said Thomas Angerer, 34, a sales manager from Regensburg, Germany. "But my wife would never have made so many purchases if we stayed in Bavaria." . Of course, not every European luxury product is a bargain in New York. . The Karl Lagerfeld clothing collection that caused a stir at worldwide outlets of the German retailer H&M, for example, sells for comparable prices on both sides of the Atlantic. A black cocktail dress in the collection that sells for â‚¬79.90, or about $105, at H&M in Berlin, retails for $99.90 in New York. Including sales tax, the prices are virtually identical. . But even slim savings are not discourage Europeans this season. . "I'll buy something if I see it and not worry too much if the price is the same," said Samantha Maquin, a nurse from QuimperlÃ©, France, who was browsing the Gucci store before going to Chanel. . "I love European brands, and shopping for them in New York is fun.""