Bicester Village has become a go-to destination for anyone with a passion for fashion, a thirst for quality and a love for a bargain. Only a short train journey from London Marylebone or drive up the M40, it’s a shopping village with a firm place in my heart; I’ve been visiting it for the past twenty years, way before I could afford anything I lusted over, as it’s only a short drive away from my home town. Over the years I’ve managed to nab so many bargains, get my hands on some real designer steals and learned the hard way what you shouldn’t and shouldn’t be getting your credit card out for. I’m often asked for tips for visiting Bicester Village by those wishing to get their shop on, and I’m aware it can be quite an intimidating place if you’ve never been before, so I thought I’d compile all my top tips for visiting in one place. If you’re wondering how to grab a bargain at Bicester Village or shop wisely when you visit, let me share twenty years of knowledge with you… (And the secrets to getting the designer bag of your dreams.)
DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFOREHAND
It can no doubt be overwhelming when you step into the village for the first time, so many boutiques on offer and hundreds (if not thousands) of people mingling around on the hunt for a bargain. My top tip for shopping Bicester Village would be to have a look at the list of boutiques online before you go, making note of the names you’re really interested in so you don’t miss out. Some of the shops are hidden away and aren’t on the main street, so it’s also worth looking at a map or asking for directions if you have a specific store in mind. If you’re after something in particular, it’s also worth noting down those items you couldn’t quite bring yourself to spend full price on so they’re top of mind when you’re browsing. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of discounted designer fashion, so be prepared not regretful.
WALK WITH AN AIR OF CONFIDENCE
Honestly, it makes all the difference if you walk into a store looking confident and knowledgeable. If you act like you deserve to be there you’ll be treated as such, the shop assistants making extra effort to help you or allowing you to try things on. I always make an effort to dress nicely and carry a designer bag with me when visiting, and honestly it makes all the difference (even if I do sound like a bit of a d*ck typing that.) They really do clock you immediately and are trained to know who is a general browser and who is a genuine potential customer; my last visit I was given an extra 10% off a Givenchy bag because I was so chatty with the sales assistant about the ones I loved (not a small amount when you’re spending that much on a piece of arm candy) and the visit before that I was taken ‘out back’ in Anya Hindmarsh to see the stock that wasn’t on the shelves. Both times I nabbed things I loved and cost me less than they would otherwise, simply because I was confident and knowledgeable.
ASK FOR WHAT’S NOT ON DISPLAY
That leads nicely on to my next piece of advice, which is to always ask for anything additional that’s not on display. If you have your heart set on a specific item, it’s always worth asking if they have any in stock – because more often than not (due to the nature of these premium stores and how they like to display stock) there’s a huge stash in the stockroom that you just aren’t aware of. I know Chloe, Anya Hindmarsh and Givenchy do this a lot. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for something in particular, especially as it may have just arrived and they haven’t had a chance to display it yet.
AVOID ‘MADE FOR OUTLET’ BAGS & ACCESSORIES
One of my biggest bugbears about the village is the brands that have cottoned on to the fact that people come from hours away to nab a bargain, and the majority of them are ill-informed about what pieces form part of the actual seasonal collections. I mean, no shade, but unless you’re super into fashion or love a brand enough to follow what’s new every season, why would you? Some of the biggest culprits are Michael Kors, Mulberry and Coach, who have a large selection of pieces that were never available in their stores – they’ve been made with sub par quality just so they can be sold within the village at a discount price.
One of the key things to look out for is the ‘original RRP’, because many items just have a retail price on, as well as the overall quality of the bag / purse; if it doesn’t feel as sturdy, detailed or comparable with some of the items in store then it probably has just been made for the outlet. I bought myself a grey Mulberry Bayswater bag not realising it wasn’t as good quality as the classic colours, and within a couple of uses it started to look tired; an expensive mistake. It’s obviously personal choice whether you love it regardless, but be well informed and make good choices!
DON’T BOTHER WITH THE QUEUES
Some of the stores have huge queues outside as there’s a limit on how many shoppers can be browsing at once; Gucci, Prada, Ralph Lauren, Pandora, Cath Kidston and Coach nearly always have some degree of queue outside, but my advice is to avoid getting in line and browse the rest of the village instead. It’s set out in such a way that you have to walk the length of the main street and then back again, and it’s always far quieter on the way back if you’re desperate for a look inside. Don’t waste valuable shopping minutes queuing up if you don’t have to!
AVOID GETTING CARRIED AWAY
We’ve all been there. You stop thinking logically and start getting caught up in the fact that ‘this is half price!’ when it’s still in fact £1500. When everything is so expensive, a pair of earrings for £60.00 seems like pocket change – but if you were to remove yourself from that time and place would you think that’s a reasonable amount to spend? If yes, knock yourself out and enjoy it! If not, maybe put it down and head to ASOS when you get home instead. I’ve made mistakes many times, thinking that I really needed a bright blue tote bag because it was 60% off, only to regret it a week later when I came to the realisation I dropped a tonne of cash on something I’m going to get very little use out of. Be sensible and think logically!
ALLOW ENOUGH TIME & ENJOY SOME REFRESHMENTS
Practically every time I visit Bicester Village I’m there for about six hours; there are so many boutiques, but there are also so many cafes, restaurants and pop-ups to visit along the way. I tend to start with brunch in the Farmhouse, visit The Wolseley for lunch or dinner, stop for coffee in Le Pain Quotidien or Pret, and enjoy a cake in Rapha’s. Half of the fun is pausing to have a chat, rehydrate and have a look at what you’ve bought – don’t rush around or try and do the whole village in two hours.
SIGN UP FOR ADDED DISCOUNT DAYS
Quite often there’s a village-wide added discount day, where you can get up to an extra 20% off your purchases – something that can make a real difference if you’re dropping hundreds of pounds at once. Signing up for Bicester Village’s newsletter will give you advance notice on when this is happening, as well as the boutiques that are participating, so you can plan your trip (and save your money!)
For me, Bicester Village is a shopping destination I visit regularly just to see what’s on offer; half of the time I come away completely empty handed, but often I find something that’s truly worth the drive. I’ve managed to buy a black Givenchy Antigona (that you’ll see in this post) and the pale pink one in these pictures, both of which were about £1000 cheaper than in store, as well as a couple of Anya Hindmarsh Eyes bags for half price; one time I picked up a Mulberry cape for 75% off, while often I can nab current season Kate Spade for about 40% off the high street prices.
Just before Christmas I picked up a Michael Kors bag for my mum for 75% off (and went back to get myself one too!) while Furla and Coach often have the perfect accessory for what I’m looking for, at least half price. (The bag in this post was a bargain £109 vs £250!) My all time best buy though was a Burberry bag that I’d seen on the catwalk but winced at the £2500 price tag; a year later it was in store with an additional 20% off, so I managed to make it mine for £450 – you just can’t argue with that.
I love a designer bag; as someone who grew up never being allowed to have the proper brands, I see it as a reward for my hard work and financial independence. Although spending that much on one item may seem crazy for many, for me it’s what I save for and reward myself with when I can afford to do so. If you love investing in designer quality but don’t want to spend the full retail value, Bicester Village is a great place to visit.
FYI the Givenchy Antigona Medium Tote in these pictures is still available to buy online for £2090.00 – I got it for £1090.00 in the village.
The Michael Kors sunglasses are very similar to these ones retailing for £166.00 – but I paid £80.00
Find out more: www.bicestervillage.com
This post is in no way affiliated with Bicester Village; I visit of my own accord and spend my own money.