In La La Land you shop till the dollar drops

SARAH JENKINS will be leaving plenty of extra room in her suitcase when she flies to Los Angeles in six days.

Thanks to the strong Australian dollar she is planning to shop up a storm on a work-related visit.

''I've been looking at websites like Bergdorf Goodman just to see what's going to be over there and the sites show the prices. It's like 'oh my god, that's in Aussie dollars and I'm going to be there in two seconds,'' the brand manager from Wahroonga said.

Ms Jenkins, 24, is one of tens of thousands of Australian visitors propping up California's struggling economy, which is fighting its way out of recession and unemployment of more than 12 per cent.

New figures from the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau show 339,000 Australians visited the city last year, a 46 per cent rise on 2009.

The surge catapulted Australia into the No.1 position for overseas visitors, relegating Britain to second place and Japan third.

Hotels, theme parks, restaurants and retailers suffering from the recession are offering big discounts and cashed-up Australians are lapping them up.

''What we consider brand names here, like Michael Kors, are being sold in their equivalent of Payless Shoes now,'' Ms Jenkins said.

The decision by Delta and V Australia to compete with Qantas and United on the Australia-US routes has also resulted in cheaper airfares.

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Along the Rodeo Drive shopping strip in Beverly Hills on Wednesday, where boutiques all displayed large ''sale'' signs in their front windows, Australian accents were almost as common as American ones.

''There's a lot of Aussies about,'' Travis Austin, visiting from Perth, said outside the Versace store.

Mr Austin and his girlfriend, Jessica Ferguson, are spending two weeks in the US, splitting their time between New York and Los Angeles. Ms Ferguson said she had been restrained with her shopping, but was planning to hunt for handbags and other items on their final days in Los Angeles.

The Walsh family from Sydney embarked on a hit-and-run Beverly Hills shopping trip.

The father, Ken, and son Michael, 12, headed to the Niketown superstore for shoes, while the mother, Jill, and daughter Sarah, 16, ventured to Juicy Couture.

The Beverly Hills stop was part of a city sightseeing tour, and the tour guide gave them 30 minutes to shop on Rodeo Drive.

Sarah emerged from Juicy Couture with three bags stuffed with dresses, leggings, tracksuits and T-shirts.

''She bought $US300 worth of clothes in 10 minutes,'' Ms Walsh said.

Sarah did not mind blowing her savings on the clothes.

''In Australia this would have cost me $2000, so I'm actually saving money,'' she said.

with AAP

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