The best outlet stores and villages are a great way to score a brilliant designer bargain, whether you’re shopping for fashion, beauty, or homeware. Here’s how to get the most from your visit, and where to go for what.
What should you shop for at outlet stores?
Typically, it’s best to hone in on designer goods you’ll use forever, but that you might not have been able to stretch to without the price drop. Think jewellery, leather handbags or purses, brand-name coats and jackets, luxe lingerie or statement shoes, rather than fast fashion buys you’ll tire of quickly.
Denim is another good staple that never goes out of style: ‘Levi’s never disappoints. They have such a wide range that it’s impossible to not make a purchase and I find that their jeans are the perfect fit,’ says Janine Constantin-Russell, Managing Director of ICON Outlet at The O2.
And while fashion is at the forefront of your mind, you can also usually find big savings on electricals, cookware, home furnishings and high-end luggage, so don’t forget to pay a visit to the lifestyle section too.
How can you get the best deals at outlet stores?
According to Janine, you should always have a game plan before you go – there are often so many brands and stores in an outlet it can feel a little overwhelming, so have a look at the website and prioritise the ones you definitely want to visit. Also, check the sale section of the brand’s own websites and see if there’s a click and collect option, as you might even be able to snap up a steal to pick up when you visit in person.
Go out of hours
If you still think of shop opening times as 9-5, think again – a lot of outlets run late night opening hours when the shops are much quieter and the pace is more relaxed. The day you visit can have an impact too: ‘If you’re looking to beat the crowds and seek out the perfect best buys, head down to any of the centres mid-week,’ advises Christophe Deshayes, Managing Director UK at McArthurGlen, which has 24 outlet locations around nine countries around the world. Well, when you think about it, the less busy the stores are, the less competition there is for those bargains…
Shop off season
When are you likely to get the best price on a winter coat? When no one else is shopping for one. Shops often have stock they need to shift regardless of the weather, so if you can plan far enough ahead, you might end up finding your perfectly priced bikini in December, or amazing boots in August.
Look out for multi-buy offers
‘I adore my new Raybans from Sunglass Hut, which I purchased for £86 reduced from £119. And with their offer of 30-40 per cent off your second pair, I treated my husband to a new pair of sunglasses too,’ adds Janine. If you’re in the market for more than one of a similar item, see if you can spot any discounts for bulk buys – and if it’s not mentioned on the shelves, it’s still worth asking. And speaking of…
Ask the staff
If you live locally or return often and don’t see anything that’s inspiring you in store, ask the staff what day their new stock is delivered. Identifying their schedule means you’ll have a heads up on the best days to browse for future visits, and can get ahead of everyone else for those prime purchases.
Consider a package
Bicester Village, one of the best known and loved malls of its kind, offers a Shopping Day Experience, which costs £99, and might sound steep upfront. However, included in that price, you get return coach tickets from central London, lunch or dinner, a £50 voucher to spend during your trip and 10 per cent VIP discount off in all of the boutiques, which suddenly makes it seem like much more of a bargain…
When should you visit outlet stores for the best deals?
Sale season is the obvious answer – ‘we offer up to 60 per cent off RRP prices every day, all year round, but with the launch of our summer sale, brands will be offering up to 70 per cent off,’ says Janine.
However, don’t just think Christmas and summer – a lot of outlets have member’s clubs that you can sign up to, which will let you know when a flash sale is on its way. ‘To be ahead of the sales, hear about our latest news and receive exclusive event invitations before anyone else, a quick tip is to sign up to our Privilege Club which will unlock an array of amazing offers,’ Christophe says of the McArthur Glen group.
Experts also recommend following your chosen outlet on social media, and signing up to their newsletters too – it’s the quickest way to keep up to date with all of the latest promotions throughout the year, and you might even get an extra discount for your loyalty.
6 of the best outlet stores in the UK
The original, and what many would say is still the very best, Bicester Village is a luxurious, high end take on outlet shopping. An impressive two million journeys have been made through Bicester Village Station since it opened in October 2015, which speaks for itself. The destination, which is just outside of London in Oxfordshire, boasts a range of your favourite designer brands with hefty discounts (up to 60% off), including Celine, Gucci, Fendi and Stella McCartney. Bicester also stocks more affordable mid range brands (think COS and Levi’s), beauty and home brands, and has places you can go and eat at, too.
ICON Outlet at The O2
The newest of London’s retail outlets, ICON Outlet is situated inside The O2 at Greenwich. Not as high end as Bicester but still well stocked, this is a good option if you live in the capital or are visiting for the day. Brands vary from mid range designers like Aspinal of London and Calvin Klein, to more affordable labels such as Gap, The Body Shop, and Clarks. And yes, you’ll score some bargains.
McArthurGlen Designer Outlet York
Located a mere ten minutes away from York city centre, this is easy to get to for locals or visitors alike. There are more brands than you can throw a Lacoste shirt at here, with all budgets and tastes in mind – and of course, there are some heavy discounts. The best options include Coach, Kate Spade, Kurt Geiger and Nike. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the luxe beauty offerings from the likes of Penhaligon’s and Molton Brown, as well as discounted Le Creuset for your dream kitchen.
Gretna Gateway Outlet Village, Scotland
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While there are some good fashion options at Gretna Gateway, it’s best to head there for homeware and food, where there are the most wide-ranging offerings. Take a trip over (and take full advantage of the free parking) to visit the Cadbury shop, Lakeland, M&S, and Procook. You’ll definitely leave feeling full and well equipped in the kitchen.
McArthurGlen Designer Outlet Cheshire Oaks
Owned by the same company behind the York retail outlet, the Cheshire branch has a similar array of impressive brands, and is located 35 minutes from Manchester and 45 minutes from Liverpool. With over 140 stores, it is the UK’s largest multi-store outlet, and includes brands like Pandora, Lulu Guinness, Links of London, and Samsonite. Many of the stores here are currently holding their summer sales, too.
Designed with trendy East Londoners in mind, Hackney Walk has re-imagined 12 Victorian railway arches on Morning Lane in E9. The outlet stocks a whole host of cool, modern brands including Zadig & Voltaire, Nike, and Anya Hindmarch, and also features The Box: a concept store that stocks premium fashion sample sales and looks direct from the catwalk with up to 80% off. This place is solid proof that outlet retail stores can certainly be cool.