A quick disclaimer here; this is one of the only times you will see me out shopping with a smile on my face. Despite being the grand old age of twenty-nine and hopefully possessing the maturity and knowledge to traverse the high street successfully, I will often shy away from the real-life experience and instead browse for new wardrobe items online. There is, however, a shopping mecca that I have been visiting since I was barely old enough to carry my own shopping bags; Bicester Village in the Oxfordshire countryside.
Many of you will already know about Bicester (with 6 million plus visitors a year a LOT of people know about it), but there are a few tips and tricks that can make your experience a whole lot more productive. For those who do need a refresher, Bicester Village is a designer outlet centre an hours’ drive from Central London. If you prefer to take the train, it is just 45 minutes from Marylebone; making it, in my opinion, a much more appealing alternative to the stress of walking down Oxford Street. To be allowed to sell their wares, designers (which range from Gucci through to Hunter Boots) must offer discounts in excess of 33%. If you look in the right places, this number can rise up to 80% and when you consider some of the blockbuster names you will find here, that is one hell of a discount. Anyway, here are my top tips for visiting Bicester Village. Enjoy.
There is nothing worse than shopping on an empty stomach or, if you’re making a mental checklist of items to buy, interrupting that shop for a bite to eat. I highly recommend a trip to the Farmshop if you haven’t eaten before you arrive; brought to Bicester from the team behind nearby Soho Farmhouse it serves up unbelievably delicious food in a lovely farm-like atmosphere. More haute than haystack, the burgers are to die for and the macaroni and cheese was divine. Service is also impeccably fast; probably geared around the shopping experience as a whole. You can be in and out within half an hour but, amazingly, the whole eating and drinking experience feels refined and well put together.
App Second (and enjoy the Private Sale)
Save time, and money, by downloading the official Bicester Village app. Not only will you get an interactive map which makes targeting those brands much easier, you can also sign up to the Private Sale which offers an extra 20% off more than 100 brands in the village. Sure, you can do this online too, but the app is very intuitive and makes the whole shopping process seamless. The Private Sale runs a number of times a year with the current sale on until 13 May. There has never been a better time to visit; I bought a pair of Dolce & Gabbana loafers for £280 that were originally in excess of £600. An unbelievable saving with that extra 20% on top.
Ask Ask Ask
Being British, I am not particularly comfortable with engaging in conversation when I’m shopping; it’s more of a head down and get through it approach. Not only are the staff at Bicester Village very friendly and knowledgeable, they also have the ability to produce some of the best deals from thin air. If you can’t see a specific item in one of the various stores, don’t be afraid to chat to a member of staff. In most designer stores there is a continual conveyor belt of product ranges, so not every item will make it to the shop floor. It never hurts to ask and you may find your dream item can still be found at Bicester Village.
Put It On Hold
Finally, and most importantly, in almost every store you can put an item on hold for a set period of time. While the higher valued items, such as those at Prada, may have a time limit of an hour, this can give you plenty of time to think about the purchase and perhaps look elsewhere to make sure there isn’t something a little different to consider. It makes the whole process of shopping and Bicester Village stress-free; you can pick out an item, try it on and then go away and think about it knowing that it can’t be cherry-picked by another savvy shopper. I utilise this almost every time I go to Bicester. After all, it always pays to shop around.
You can find out more on the Private Sale on the Bicester Village website, but I highly recommend making the trip to discover the designer outlet shopping for yourself. There are some incredible brands and incredible items here and it’s easy to spend the day here seeing what is on offer.