Top tips for making the most of Bicester Village

You’s Fashion Director Shelly Vella visits Bicester Village for a dose of retail therapy…

Once upon a time shopping centres were the holy grail of retail therapy. Big, modern temples of consumerism, all mirrors and glass with sweeping escalators and piped music. The place to go for multiple brands nestled under one broad, weather-defying roof.

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Tastes and times have changed and while some still flock to the giant centres to shop, there’s a big wave of consumers wanting a calmer, more thoughtful experience. Sustainability and shopping for quality over quantity is at the forefront of many people’s choices and Bicester Village offers just that.

With its pretty and infinitely Instagrammable flower- and plant-lined paved avenues and white clapperboard stores, it’s become a top destination for seasonless, discounted quality from some of the biggest names in fashion, home and tech. From Barbour to Balmain, Gucci to Stella McCartney, the roster of brands on offer is both alluring and impressive.

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The Apartment’s lavish interior is the perfect place for a little personal styling.

It had been a while since I’d visited, so last Friday I headed there to enjoy the privileges of Reserved Parking, a pit stop and a latte in ‘The Apartment’ (the first class lounge for VIPs and for those enjoying the personal shopping service on offer).

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I was pleasantly surprised by how relaxed the entire experience was. Yes, there was one queue, outside Gucci (no surprises there), but the rest of my mooch around the village was calm and queue-less.

Any notion of not spending was shot down when I spotted the Isabel Marant store and was thrilled to find a further 40% mark-down inside (oh my! the discounts are good). I bought a ring I adore and then propelled myself out of the door before further temptations presented, which, of course, they inevitably did.

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I couldn’t help myself…

What I loved most was people watching; you can come to Bicester and solely enjoy the shops, but it’s also very much a meeting place for friends and family, especially with the classy offering of cafés and restaurants available. It’s sociable, easy to navigate and everyone is friendly.

Let’s not forget that most people heading to Bicester will be intending to invest in a little slice of specialness; whether it’s a pair of Jimmy Choos, a Mulberry bag, jewellery from Monica Vinader or a dress from Michael Kors, as with any investment purchase, the experience is everything and Bicester doesn’t disappoint. None of the stuffiness of Bond Street but 100% of the top-notch service you’d expect.

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A lunch date at Café Wolseley for the best chopped salad and skinny fries.

My tips on how to enjoy a leisurely day out at Bicester Village:

*Arrive early for easier parking and smaller crowds, or make the most of the 10pm closing time every Thursday until the end of August. Make an evening of it with supper and a visit to your favoured stores. There will be live music in the village square and the chance to unwind on the alfresco terraces with a cocktail or two.

*Truly making Bicester the ultimate in happy places, the village will be adorned in bright yellow smiles from the 14 July, creating moments of Instagrammable joy for guests. An exclusive Smiley pop-up in the Village will stock a range of Smiley products, the proceeds of which will be donated to the Village’s DO GOOD charity partners.

 

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Some of the upbeat Smiley merchandise on offer at Bicester.

*Pre-plan and have an idea of your must-stop shops. There’s a lot at Bicester to side-track you and some stores require digital registration to gain entry, eg, Gucci.

*Book your table for lunch ahead of your visit to avoid disappointment. Café Wolseley (best chopped salad I’ve ever had), La Tua Pasta and Farmshop get super busy at lunchtime. Oh, and if you fancy an extra treat-to-self, try an ice cream from Vero Latte Italian gelato.

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Luxury ice cream from Vero Latte Italian gelato

And my personal favourite…vegan crêpes.

*To make the most of shopping for a new look, why not sign up for a one-to-one with a personal shopping guru. You can book online here: