One of our earliest memories of fashion outlet stores goes back to boarding school days – more specifically the closest town to our school which is known as a high-end ski resort filled with a high street offering the opposite of what is considered high street in the United Kingdom: luxury boutiques. Women of all around the world spend their afternoons shopping through an assortment of clothes, accessories and shoes from Chanel to Ralph Lauren. Tucked in between all those is a multi-brand store offering a more contemporary selection featuring designers such as Alexandre Vauthier, Alexis, Saint Laurent, Re/Done, and the likes.
That certainly isn’t where we could find discounted items – instead, right up a small hill at the end of the high street was the one place where we could get our hands on a heavily priced down clutch or pair of shoes that was no longer relevant in said multi-brand store. You can only imagine our delight – the store, almost twice as big as its parent version was filled with stacks and stacks of branded denim, ski wear, sky-high heels, clutches, evening wear, knitwear and even swimwear! The best of all – everything is marked down at 60% and more.
While this was considered a hidden gem on 1800+ meters over sea level, it was nothing compared to what we found once we moved to the big city. Upon our arrival to London where we decided to pursue our studies, we got our first glimpse of the nearest outlet village (that’s right, forget the store, we had a whole village): Bicester Village. As we watched the branded bus drive by, we couldn’t help but think how convenient it is to simply hop on a bus and a mere hour later, we’ll be strolling through what some consider their “best shopping day”.
It has to be said that not all outlet malls, village or stores around the world resemble even closely the standards and appearance of Bicester Village. The outlet, brought to the UK by Scott Malkin (Chairman of Value Retail, parent company of Bicester and 10 other outlets) in 1995 and has witnessed an outstanding success over its inception, named the most productive shopping centres a few years ago. What’s their secret and how are they surviving in light of the e-commerce consumer demand? According to Malkin in a recent interview, it’s about trading the traditional online guys and the traditional physical guys so that their actions are in line with the brand or company’s goals.
Additionally, it’s no wonder that the appeal of these outlet shops not only lies in their unparalleled chic setting, with a concierge, pick up and drop off services, as well as frequent flyer programs. They’re always conveniently located only 45 min away from a big city (see Munich, London, Milan, Madrid villages), and surrounded by the most popular restaurants and cafes to take a break from, during busy shopping days. Their focus is on enhancing the in-store retail experience for the consumer, as well as working seamlessly in line with the brands to provide the best experience for both the customer and the brand, and it has proven to work. After its expansion, Bicester village now boasts 160 boutiques, attracting more than 6 million visitors each year, in addition to the 10 other villages in Europe and China. To further attest to its success, the real estate developer Hammerson has increased its share in Value Retail by £76 million.
While Value Retail has seen an impressive evolution since its inception, its appeal is far from comparable to other fashion outlets around the world. In the United States, it seems that the approach to discount shopping is more subdued and is most commonly identified as outlet malls situated on the outskirts of big cities or along the highway. We visited Camarillo Premium Outlets, located between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara – the selection is heavily influenced by American designers, with a few exceptions like Adidas, Armani Exchange, Diesel, Godiva, amongst others. Though practical to get to due to its convenience, it isn’t common to consider these outlet malls, 5-star destinations with unrivalled service such as booking a chauffeur or getting personal styling tips.
We hope this gave you a taste of how successful a shopping day can seem like, but we want to know from you, and send you to your nearest village! So grab your sunglasses and shopping essentials, and take the next bus or train to Bicester Village to experience it for yourself. And don’t forget to let us know what deals you got your hands on – we want in!
9 Shopping Essentials for a Busy Day At an Outlet Village
Images: Bicester Village
PS: If you buy something through our links, TWC may earn an affiliate commission.