Saturday, 8 October 2011
When I moved to Oxfordshire a few years back I was amazed to discover we had the out-of-town equivalent of Bond Street on our doorstep.
Bicester Village looks like a quaint New England street, all white clapboard shop-fronts and tasteful landscaping, but in reality it’s a shoppers’ paradise just two miles off the M40. The 130 or so shops include all the names fashionistas worth their salt dream about, from Vivienne Westwood and Anya Hindmarch (above) to Dolce & Gabbana and Versace. They stock clothes, bags, shoes, you name it, from last season at knock-down prices - perfect for these tough economic times. Reductions range between 33 and 60 per cent but eagle-eyed shoppers make a point of watching out for “further reduction” periods, when some prices drop by a staggering 70 or 80 per cent.
The place attracts more than four million bargain-hunters a year from all over the world and is virtually always packed – so much so that a couple of years back they had to build a vast second car park.
If you want to take a break from shopping and treat yourself to lunch there are loads of tempting restaurants, including Carluccio’s, Villandry and Jamie Oliver’s Fabulous Feasts, while at Christmas the Bicester Village staff organise late night shopping evenings, complete with carol singers, mince pies and mulled wine.
Armani, Gucci and Superdry have all arrived in the last couple of years but my favourite shops are Mulberry, where I bought a gorgeous Bayswater bag at half price, Jack Wills (my stylish 19-year-old daughter says it’s too preppy for her but the staff are delightful), All Saints and L’Occitane for heavenly lavender bath foam that reminds me of Provence.