diamond geezer

 Saturday, January 03, 2015

When Asian tourists come to London they head to Harrods, they seek out Windsor Castle, and they flock to a shopping mall in Oxfordshire. The retail outlet with the magnetic touch is Bicester Village - The Luxury Shopping Experience. And whilst it might look like a lot of chalet sheds to some, to many it's Total Brand Heaven, and it Must Be Visited.

They gather at Marylebone station, and queue in surprising numbers for a ticket. The staff behind the glass nod knowingly at another garbled request, and throw in the shuttlebus for an extra fiver before sending the smiling shoppers on their way. Most cram quickly into the seats at the near end of the train, rather than walking up to the far end where there's more space, and chatter contentedly as the service departs. Pick the right service and you can be at Bicester North in under three quarters of an hour, which is pretty impressive for 'beyond Oxford'.

At the destination off they pour, and line up patiently by the footbridge for the next coach to the shops. Several shuttlebuses will be lined up waiting, beneath station signs written jointly in English, Chinese and Arabic, because Chiltern Railways know their clientele. A marshal beckons visitors to fill up the seats from the front, and off they go on their brief journey round the ring road. In reality Bicester Village is barely one mile away through the town, but it might as well be on the Moon because nobody would dream of walking.

I walked. Twenty minutes in total, much of which I spent ambling down the town's main street. Here are all the shops that Bicester's residents frequent, the usual run of minor chains and independents, and rather pleasant all told. I enjoyed a rifle through the excellent Cole's Bookshop (who specialise in signed copies), and dallied with two bakeries (for tasty elevenses), untroubled by any clothes shops whatsoever. Much more my kind of shopping experience than what was to follow, alas.

Bicester Village is one long pedestrianised avenue with about 100 shops in total, or boutiques as the management prefer them to be called. A large car park runs the entire length, because cars are even more important to trade than trains and coaches, as is evidenced by the valet parking service offered to discriminating punters. Smartly dressed drivers pull up in the special lane outside the bureau de change, then hand their keys to an underling who goes round the vehicle videoing it for fictional scratches lest there be any misunderstanding later.

And yes, finally, the shops. Every luxury brand you'd hope to find has staked a claim to one of Bicester Village's chalet cabins, from Prada to Burberry and Versace to Vivienne Westwood. Viewed from outside each store has a continental feel, but step through the door and the shop is more of a 1995 prefab decorated with shelves and displays. The bigger stores have an upstairs but most are quite compact single-storey affairs, packed high (or somewhat sparsely) with fashion bargains.

I say bargains, but it's all relative. In Hugo Boss the t-shirts were reduced to 'only' £29, while the polo shirts were down to fifty-nine from ninety-nine, but this didn't seem to stop people from milling and fussing and purchasing. In the Levi's shop a lady was delighted to find a pair of denim shorts for a fiver, but their jeans were tagged with much the same price as I'd expect to see on a high street, and as for the handbags nextdoor I don't feel properly qualified to comment.

You don't get cut-price brand outlets in Shanghai, or anywhere else in the South Midlands for that matter, so the allure of Bicester Village is strong. And it gets considerably stronger as the day goes on, hence many of the boutiques have roped-off areas out front to dripfeed potential customers within as numbers increase. On the day of my visit initially only the Ugg store and Polo Ralph Lauren (for Men) had queues, but several others swiftly followed, until shopping for the most popular brands became more of a chore than a joy.

As well as the Chinese and Middle Eastern contingent, a goodly proportion of those frequenting Bicester Village are Home Counties couples and well-groomed families. Nobody runs around in hoodies, instead the look is more heels and hairgel, as befits the lifestyle everyone's here to buy into. Most come for the day, perhaps gaining sustenance from the conveyor-belt creperie, grabbing a Pret or taking a table in the perfectly targeted Thai before returning to the fray.

Slowly the designer carrier bags accumulate, a-dangle from manicured hands, until every potential bargain has been explored. And then it's back to locate the car, or queue for the coach shuttle, and to begin the long journey home. I bought bugger all, having been wholly unimpressed by the preponderance of clothing and paucity of objects, and turned off by pricetags still well above what I'd consider a good deal. But the happy souls packed on the train home told a different story, and tomorrow Westminster Abbey, yes?

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream