Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Luxury Shopping in Bicester

There is a new kind of game in town. It is a pleasurable activity, because it involves buying luxury goods at good prices. How is that possible you ask? Surely it is not luxury unless you pay an arm and a leg for it?

Deep in the Oxfordshire countryside, approximately nine miles from Oxford, lies the picturesque village of Bicester. It rhymes with ‘Sister’, who you should probably take there. It also rhymes with ‘Blister’, which is appropriate as you will need to do some walking. It is here that Bicester Village was built as a Mecca for all luxury shoppers.

It is a little confusing to see Bicester Village on the company’s website as ‘London’, as it is clearly not. It is not even ‘Oxford’, but there you go. I guess it is aimed at foreigners who think that London includes most things in England.

Here we have it, a Bond Street without the traffic and without the hassle. And more to the point, without the prices. Yes, this is luxury shopping at its best. Or is it? You doubt it, because you know you are not going to have that hard swallow, deep determination to be able to afford that handbag you have always wanted and never quite been able to afford. No guilty feelings, that has to be a new way to shop!

It is a bit like the first time you go to Primark. You look at the prices and you suddenly realise that actually you can afford to buy four or five of the things they are selling, instead of just one, somewhere else. But do not think that this is Primark, and the prices are a give-away. They are not.

The brands are selling last year’s collections at reduced prices. Putting it another way, everything they were unable to sell last year, they will try to sell through their outlets at Bicester Village at a reduced price. But if you think about it another way, you buy luxury brands exactly because they stand the test of time. So if you wear something from last year’s collection, does it really matter? So everybody’s a winner.

There are perhaps a few kingmakers who are notable by their absence. Louis Vuitton and Chanel are the principal ones, but they do not discount anything anyway, so it is probably not surprising they are not present. There are also a few pretenders who are probably surprising by their inclusion. Luxury Hedonist thought best not to embarrass them by naming them.

Some brands have embraced Bicester Village like a sister and gone to town. Ralf Lauren, for example, has three shops, encompassing their Children’s clothes, the main store for men’s and women’s fashion, and their Home store. In their main store, they have a fine selection of goods at good prices. There some other stores who have not really grasped the concept of selling luxury products at non-luxury prices, and would probably prefer they were elsewhere. Some other top brands, like Gucci, to their credit, seemed to have embraced the concept and sell some very attractive products at very acceptable prices.

Bicester Village is only an hour and a half by road from London, and also has very good transport links. Coaches travel regularly from London and there is also a rail station, with good links to London. It is only an hour away via Chiltern Railways from Marylebone Station in London. The village has a very good tourist inflow, with tourists from all around the world.

So if you want to go to Bicester, grab your sister and prepare for one or two blisters!

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