How To Outlet Shop

Men are notorious cheapskates. Suckers for a bargain, it comes as no surprise, then, that we’re all over anything with a discount or what is perceived as a good deal.

No wonder outlet centres have seen such massive growth over the last few years. Guys have developed a thirst for branded things and designer labels, but often can’t afford or justify the price. This is where the outlet centre comes in.

An American innovation that we’ve wholeheartedly embraced, there are around 50 designer outlets in the UK, with more set to open. At first impression they look like any other shopping centre: retailers are branded with the same shop fits and goods are displayed in the same way as more traditional stores, but they come with those all-important and enticing discounts.

In fact, brands often make more money here than anywhere else, as they still control the environments in which they sell old/surplus stock, but they don’t have to pay the extortionate rents of prime city locations.

Great for helping your money go further, today we’re set to explore some of the UK’s biggest and best outlet centres, while offering a few guidelines on how to shop once you get there…

Bicester Village

The most famous outlet centre in the UK is probably Bicester Village in Oxfordshire. Opened in 1995, it resembles a New England fishing village and has the highest sales density of any shopping centre in the world.

In 2013, Bicester Village, with its 130 boutiques, welcomed 6 million visitors, with China the top visiting non-EU nationality. This is ‘luxury’ outlet shopping – even with the discounts, things are still expensive here.

Just sixty minutes from both London and Birmingham, it offers the UK’s leading premium outlet shopping experience with brands such as Prada, Mulberry, Burberry and Tod’s all offering savings of up to sixty per cent.

Bicester Village Shopping Outlet

Bicester Village Shopping Outlet

British Designers Collective At Bicester Village

British Designers Collective At Bicester Village

Key Details

Web: BicesterVillage.com

Tel: +44 (0) 1869 323 200

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 09.00 – 20.00
Saturday: 09:00 – 21:00
Sunday: 10.00 – 19.00*

Cheshire Oaks

McArthurGlen introduced the concept of designer outlet retailing to Europe in 1995 with the opening of the Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet, just outside of Chester. It is still the largest designer outlet in the UK with 145 stores and 32,600 sq m of retail space.

Over a mile long, the circular layout makes it easy to navigate and allows you to leisurely take in all the stores.

Highlights range from renowned sportswear brands like Nike and Adidas, to high street favourites such as Marks & Spencer and Next, to a selection of iconic fashion labels, including Burberry, Polo, Michael Kors and Hugo Boss.

McArthurGlen Cheshire Oaks

McArthurGlen Cheshire Oaks

Key Details

Web: McArthurGlen.com

Tel: +44 (0) 151 348 5600

Opening Hours:
Monday – Friday: 10:00 – 20:00
Saturday: 09:00 – 19:00
Sunday: 10:00 – 18:00
Larger Stores – Sunday: 11:00 – 17:00

Gunwharf Quays

Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth, looking out to the Solent and Isle of Wight and anchored by the Spinnaker tower, has ninety-five stores in over 425,000 sq ft.

With a footfall of eight million, it is the third most popular outlet centre in the UK. Located next to the Historic Dockyard, it offers the perfect excuse to visit the coast while replenishing your wardrobe.

Brands found at Gunwharf Quays include AllSaints, Jack Wills, GANT, Jaeger, Wolsey and Lacoste. There is also a great selection of cafes and restaurants that look out over the marina.

Gunwharf Quays Outlet Shopping Centre

Gunwharf Quays Outlet Shopping Centre

Gunwharf Quays Outlet Shopping Centre

Key Details

Web: gunwharf-quays.com

Tel: +44 (0) 239 283 6700

Opening Hours:
Monday – Friday: 10:00 – 20:00
Saturday: 9:00 – 20:00
Sunday: 10:00 – 17:00

London Designer Outlet

The first of its type in the capital, the London Designer Outlet in Wembley, North London, has seventy-five stores, fifteen restaurants/coffee shops and a nine screen Cineworld complex.

Opened in October 2013, it is one of the newest designer outlet centres and easy to get to on public transport.

It offers up to seventy per cent off normal prices at leading high street stores and designer brands, including Adidas, H&M, Sunglass Hut, Nike, Next and Kurt Geiger.

London Designer Outlet

London Designer Outlet

London Designer Outlet

Key Details

Web: london-designer-outlet.com

Tel: +44 (0) 208 912 5210

Opening Hours:
Monday – Friday: 10:00 – 20:00
Saturday: 9:00 – 20:00
Sunday: 10:00 – 17:00

Future Developments

The McArthur Glen Ashford Designer Outlet in Kent is set to double in size, adding an additional 100,000 sq ft of retail space devoted to luxury brands.

The opening of phase two could come by late 2016 or early 2017, when it is expected to add a further 950 jobs to the outlet’s current 1,000-strong workforce.

McArthur Glen Ashford Designer Outlet in Kent

Resorts World Birmingham, a new centre next to the NEC in Birmingham, is set to open in 2015. In addition to a fifty store designer outlet, the £150m complex will house a casino, restaurants and a hotel – the first collection of its kind in the West Midlands.

Resorts World Birmingham Concept Designs

Outlet Shopping Tips

Here are some general shopping tips to bear in mind when visiting a designer outlet:

  • Don’t view it as saving money. Look at it as getting something better for your money. You may even end up spending more than you usually would.
  • Know what you want, but go with an open mind as it can be unpredictable. Look at the brand list online to decide which outlet centre appeals to you most before making the trip.
  • Don’t be seduced by the label. Designers make mistakes and many of the items here haven’t sold elsewhere. It might be on the sale rail for a reason. Think before you buy.
  • Make sure it fits perfectly, or only needs minor alterations. Try everything on and don’t buy another size just because of the discount – you won’t wear it or feel good in it.
  • Buy all your classic wardrobe staples – white shirts, selvedge jeans, knitwear, brown brogues, polos, leather belts, bags, etc. – spending the same money that you usually would, but on better quality.
  • Save money by buying your favourite underwear, socks, basic tees, night clothes and accessories at discounted prices.
  • Take your time. If you’re in a rush, pick your favourite brands/stores and really look. Some of those dark, messy corners have some of the best items hidden in them.
  • Know your labels. Lots of designers and brands have sub-lines of varying quality and price scales. Educate yourself in the product and you’ll know exactly what you are buying and whether or not it’s a good deal.
  • It’s not all old or unwanted products – many outlet centres carry current season collections. They also sometimes have special pieces exclusive to them.
  • Outlet centres aren’t as predictable or reliable as traditional high street stores, so don’t go the day before a big event looking for a specific item of clothing that you need.
  • Outlet centres have sales too, so visit at the end of the season for double the discounts.
Final Word

Outlet centres are only set to increase in popularity going forward, as they continue to offer consumers the chance to purchase garments that may have otherwise been out of their price range.

However, just like when sale shopping, it’s imperative you don’t just buy for the sake of buying. If you prioritise basics and timeless pieces that will never fall out of style, you can quickly build a luxurious, high quality wardrobe that will serve you well for many years to come.

But what do you make of the outlet centre revolution? Do you visit these types of locations often or consider them a place where old, unwanted stock goes to die? What was the biggest bargain you have picked up from one of these centres?

Let us know in the comments section below…