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Amazon is a good choice for some things, but shopping there has some significant disadvantages. For example Amazon doesn't have control over their supply chains; lower-value items are often only offered in bulk quantities larger than you need, and a lack of curation means you can become overwhelmed with too many similar products to easily decide between them.
The good news is that there are some excellent alternatives to Amazon, and I've noticed that many of these can actually be cheaper depending on what you're buying.
Here I'll list each of these Amazon alternatives based on whether you're seeking a general-purpose "everything" store or if you're shopping in a particular category.
Amazon alternatives for "everything" stores
Walmart is a great alternative to Amazon as a general-purpose store for shopping online. If you're wanting to buy all kinds of different items (for example, a book, clothing, cleaning products, and tools), then Walmart is my go-to place. Even if you live within driving distance of a Walmart, it's so much more convenient to shop online from them. No need to bother with busy parking lots or a crowded store.
Target is another great online option if you're looking for a general-purpose replacement for Amazon. I love their cookware, book selection, and home goods. It can be well worth doing price comparisons between Walmart and Target if they both have the item you're seeking.
Although Kohl's leans a little more towards clothing, it is also general-purpose with plenty of toys, home goods, jewelry, electronics and more. It's a bit of a hidden gem, as it's not the first thing that comes to people's minds when looking for alternatives to Amazon, but it's well worth a look at. They stock good brands that are often on sale a bit cheaper than you'd get elsewhere.
Best Amazon alternatives for gifts
For gifts, I almost never use Amazon anymore anyway because I can never be certain about the quality: it can vary so much between different sellers and different types of products. Here are the 2 stores I shop at for gifts that have had the recipients blown away by how wonderful the items were.
Uncommon Goods as its name suggests, specializes in gifts that are a little bit off the beaten path. If you're shopping for that person who already has everything, then this is the place to go! I also love that there is something for every budget there. You don't have to spend a ton to get a great gift. They make it easy to shop for someone, you can go to their suggestions for him, for her, for kids, and more. Each of these can be filtered down further (age, budget, etc). This is always my first stop in any gift-giving endeavor!
Etsy.com is a marketplace where you can get gorgeous hand crafted items from artisans. It's perfect for something special or for personalized items such as these:
In addition to giving a meaningful gift, you also have the satisfaction of supporting small businesses when you shop at Etsy. This is perfect if you're looking for an ethical Amazon alternative for gifts.
Amazon alternatives for books
AbeBooks.com is perfect for all books - new, used, rare, and first editions. This is in many ways the closest alternative to Amazon for books because AbeBooks is a marketplace platform where individual booksellers and bookshops sell to consumers. Shipping costs are set by each seller so this can vary, but I found that most try to keep these costs extremely low.
BooksAMillion has, as its name suggests, any kind of new book imaginable. You can search for what you want, or browse by category. In addition to all the regular categories, they also have #BookTok, audiobooks, a bargain section, nonfiction, textbooks, and more. This is a great alternative to Amazon for books, whether you're looking for something traditional or trendy.
If you're looking for an ethical Amazon alternative for books, then Bookshop.org is your best choice. Every online purchase supports local bookstores. It works by letting you select a bookshop of your choice from your local area. Then when you purchase, your local bookstore gets a share of the profit. If you don't select a bookstore then the profit is split between all of the bookstores that Bookshop supports.
Alternatives to Amazon for toys
Fat Brain Toys
Fat Brain Toys already has the edge over Amazon anyway when you're looking for toys! Fat Brain Toys has high quality toys which grab children's attention and which tend to be educational (but never boring!) Items are reasonably priced, so you're getting great value for money. I've shopped there before for toys for my kids, and I can attest that Fat Brain Toys is reliable and legitimate.
I also love how easy Fat Brain Toys makes it to come up with toys for whatever age and gender you're shopping for. This is especially helpful if you're shopping for a gift for a niece or nephew, for example.
Best alternatives to Amazon for beauty and personal care
If anything, it's easier to find most of the mainstream personal care brands at these Amazon alternatives - you can rest assured that these alternatives have control over their own supply lines and you're getting the legitimate brand and not a knock-off.
Personal care basics - waxing, shaving, soap, and more
The major pharmacy brands all have online ordering available with comparatively low free shipping minimums. Best of all, there's enough competition in this field that you can comparison shop! I recommend CVS and Rite Aid. These are also a great place for cleaning products and other household items.
Beauty and make-up
You can order most of the well-known designer name beauty and makeup brands online at department stores such as Macy's and Bloomingdale's. Smaller makeup brands have online shopping available at their own brand store, for example bareMinerals, Sephora, and Ulta.
If you're looking for craft supplies rest assured you have some great alternatives to Amazon here. I recommend Michaels for all specialty crafts and general craft supplies, Annie's Craft Store for quilting, knitting, crochet, and other stitchcrafts, and Jo-Ann Fabric for sewing and upholstery.
If you use Amazon for eco-friendly cleaning products, here are wonderful alternatives that may leave you wondering why then you used Amazon for this!
The Honest Company
In addition to cleaning products, The Honest Company also stocks eco-friendly beauty items, baby care items, and more.
BlueLand specializes in eco-friendly cleaning products, with the goal of diverting plastic from landfills and oceans. The idea is to re-use the same bottle and simply get refills as needed. To start, you buy their re-usable bottles (which are surprisingly affordable!), fill it with water and add their cleaning product to dissolve in the water (it's a tablet) and let it dissolve. Then it's all ready to use. Their starter kits include the bottles and cleaning product tablets. Then for subsequent purchases you only need to buy the cleaning product tablets.
Clothes and shoes
I would not recommend Amazon for clothes and shoes anyway because it's hard to be absolutely certain you're not getting an imitation item. Some well-known brands have found fakes of their brands on sale at Amazon.
Instead, if you like brand-name clothes and shoes, rest assured you can get the real designer brands at a very cheap price point by shopping clearance stores which I'll mention in a second. How it works: the real brand names offload their excess inventory at the end of each season to these clearance stores, which sell these on at a low price, passing the savings onto you. I've shopped at these often and gotten some awesome bargains there. Even if you don't care about brand names, if you're shopping for a top (for example), you can get a really nice top from a great brand at the same price as a no-name top if you shopped at Walmart. You may as well get the nice brand if the price is the same!
For brand name electronics, I recommend Best Buy for their selection and customer service.
If you don't care about brand names and are happy with something generic, it's worth checking out eBay - I've gotten some great bargains there. Remember that eBay is a marketplace not a store, so check out the seller's rating carefully before buying, and be sure you understand the item description and condition (e.g. new, used, open box, etc).
You definitely have lots of options when it comes to Amazon alternatives. Above I covered the best alternatives to Amazon for each category of item you're shopping for.