There’s no shame in admitting that I like to shop; picking up a much coveted item of clothing or a statement accessory fills me with a buzz like nothing else. Although I love a bargain and rarely wear anything other than ASOS, when it comes to my accessories I’m all about a little luxury: carrying a designer handbag or wearing a beautiful piece of jewellery makes me feel fabulous, even if my shoes are three seasons old and I haven’t washed my hair since Monday. Over the last few years I’ve been taking trips to Bicester Village for a regular hit of luxury shopping and to grab some absolute steals; this luxury destination is home to more than 130 boutiques of world-famous brands, each offering exceptional savings and a way to treat yourself to the things you never thought would be sitting in your closet. As it’s only a short drive from my flat it’s easy to pop in, grab a coffee with a friend and see what’s new – even if the majority of boutiques leave me daydreaming about what it would be like to shop like money was no object. If you’ve never been to Bicester Village before then you really are missing out on a treat, even if high fashion or luxury goods aren’t necessarily your thing, so here’s why you’ll want to put it on your ‘to do’ list stat.
When you think of designer discount outlets you may have a perception of stock that’s ten years old, piled high and commanding a price tag that’s still somewhat ridiculous. Bicester Village isn’t like that at all. With most of their boutiques offering savings of up to 60% (and even 75% in my experience) on items that were in stores less than six months ago, it’s a great way to update your wardrobe at a fraction of the cost. On my last trip I discovered a Burberry bag I had my eye on when it hit the catwalk in 2015, but with a price tag of £1700 there’s no way I could justify it; skip forward a little and the Bicester Village boutique had it available for only £450 – a huge saving that I couldn’t resist. There’s such a fast turn around that there’s always something new, and stock seems to appear in the boutiques quicker every season; you could be lusting after it in Selfridges one month, and be handing over your card in Bicester the next.
THERE’S ALWAYS SOMETHING NEW
Every time I pop to the outlet there’s something new to experience. Whether that’s a new store, new restaurant or new exciting promotion (Bicester Village celebrates everything from Chinese New Year to Mother’s Day with extra discounts and decoration,) or a pop-up boutique, it’s never the same twice. Right now there’s a special celebration in association with the British Wool Collective bringing together all the designers in one place and offering an edit of must-haves ahead of the winter season; including cosy knits, scarves and bobble hats, the store has been designed to look like a farm shop complete with sheep decoration. The rest of the village is getting in on the act too, with every bench and lamppost fashioning their own mini woolly jumper! It’s not the sort of place you’ll only want to visit once a year – this is a destination as much as your local mall.
DELICIOUS FOOD & DRINK
What I love most about Bicester Village is the investment they’ve made into the restaurants available on-site. Nobody wants to pick up something from Mulberry and then have to sit in McDonalds to eat. You can choose from a large number of beautiful eateries to break up your shopping experience, including The Villandry and The Farm Shop (owned by the Soho House group,) or you can pop into Starbucks or Pret to grab a coffee. I’ve been known to swing by for brunch on a Sunday, followed by a casual browse, or make it a day trip to celebrate my mum’s birthday – with champagne on the side for good measure. There’s so much to see, do and eat that it’s easy for the whole day to go by in a blink.
I love the mix of brands on offer in the village, which ensures there’s always something for everyone. From super high end Prada, Valentino and Dior, to the likes of Cath Kidston, Ted Baker and Pandora, there are brands to suit all budgets – and that also includes beauty. Bicester Village also includes a very special cosmetic boutique that offers special prices on some of the UK’s favourite beauty brands, including Jo Malone, Clinique, Origins, MAC, Estee Lauder and Smashbox. In some instances it’s the only place you’ll be able to get them with a discount (I’ve never seen Jo Malone reduced before, and the only other place you can get it cut price is at the airport!) so it’s great to stop by and see what’s on offer when you need a much more affordable shopping hit.
IT’S A QUINTESSENTIAL BRITISH HIDEAWAY
One of my favourite things about this shopping destination is that it really does feel like a village. All of the stores are held in little wooden cabins, with the streets being decorated with more floral decoration than you can ever imagine; it’s like a gardener’s and instagrammer’s paradise, with greenery falling out of every nook and cranny. With pop-up eateries and benches dotted around to rest your legs, you can take in the scenery as much as the luxury goods on offer. The tourists love the iconic red telephone boxes and parked up bikes as much as the locals, thanks to a sprinkling of British magic that’s in the air.
PLUS… IT’S ONLY 40 MINS FROM LONDON
Even though the village is tucked away in the corner of Bicester, it’s actually only a 40 minute train journey from Marylebone – with trains leaving multiple times an hour. There’s even a shuttle bus that picks you up practically from the platform and drops you off in the middle of the shopping quarter, but equally ample parking if you want to drive up the M40 and leave at your own pleasure. Easy peasy.
Have you ever been to Bicester Village and grabbed a bargain? Or is it top of your to-do list?