How I Chose the 50 Best Shops in Philadelphia

Inside the fraught, anxiety-ridden, nail-biting process.

Scouting Shops

A peek at some of my research.

I’ve been covering the Philly shopping scene for over six years now. I consider many of the city’s shop owners to be a particular sort of friend — we don’t chat on the phone or hang at each other’s houses, but I’ve worked with them for so long I’ve grown to love them. And I adore pretty much all of the boutiques that make up our indie shopping scene. You can imagine, then, that picking my 50 favorites was akin to naming a favorite child: How could I possibly choose? 

“Are there really 50 shops in Philly good enough to call out?” said my editor when I initially pitched – slash begged – to do the story. “Yes,” I said automatically, without ever really considering the alternative. I’d never actually counted. So when I first set out to do my store scouting, I was trepidatious. What if there weren’t enough fantastic boutiques great enough to call out? What then?

Well, as you will see in our first-ever Best Shops guide, there were more than enough fantastic shops to include. Plenty of worthy contenders were left on the cutting room floor. (If you didn’t make the list, I’m sorry! I still love you!) But there was stiff competition,  as our retail scene continues to grow.

I took many things into consideration when compiling this list. Product selection: Was it cohesive, exciting, layered? Did it tell a story or add something interesting to the retail landscape of the city? Store design: How did the store’s aesthetic appeal add to the merchandise selection? Were things displayed in a compelling way? Staff: How did salespeople or store owners interact with customers? And, most importantly, did the store make me feel something, even if I didn’t particularly want to buy anything?

It was a months-long process during which I bought only two thingsI promised my husband that my scouting process – which took me from Delaware to New Jersey and everywhere in between – wouldn’t turn into a major shopping extravaganza. (My wish list, however, is now miles long.) So here, finally, the best boutiques in Philly, the ones you should visit right now, the ones shaping the way we dress, the way we live, and the way we shop.

Happy shopping.


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