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What's a little hop across the pond without a day trip to the very epic Bicester Village outlet shopping center, about a 30 minute public bus journey outside of Oxford (or by the way of a direct, shopper-dedicated bus from London)?
While, to the most dedicated outlet-shopper, it may not be the biggest, mainstream-iest shopping center, Bicester Village has been on our must-visit-every-time-we're-here list for years because of its small, well-edited selection of stores, really fantastic customer service (one of our friends use to call ahead to the Tod's outlet, where they'd set all the loafers in his size aside for him to try on before he got there), and score-quotient—because there's nothing more disappointing than spending an entire day trawling around a humungoid outlet center just to arrive home empty-handed.
We admit that the main goal of our trip to Bicester this time around was to hit up one of only two Jack Wills outlets in the world (the other one is in Portsmouth and the company's online outlet is—ugh—member's-only) as well as check out discounted pieces at Aubin & Wills, Jack Wills' sister store and our other major obsession-of-the-moment (more on that later), but we were excited to see lots of labels that aren't usually present at American outlet centers.
Sure, there's the Polo Ralph Lauren, the Versace, the D&G Dolce & Gabbana—been there, done that, seen it everywhere. We were really excited to see outlets for SuperDry, All Saints, Marni, Matthew Williamson, and Moncler. There were also some steeeeeeep discounts happening at the Alexander McQueen outlet—up to 80% off!—and the Luella shop had shelves full of runway samples and one-offs of her crazy-fabulous handbags—priced from around £105 to £350!
For stationery buffs, there's also a Smythson outlet—small leatherbound books were priced from just under £20—and there are even some sorta novelty things that we don't get Stateside. Like the (above) Elizabeth Hurley Swimwear Collection, which filled its own little poolhouse-type freestanding store in the middle of it all.
All in all, a trip to Bicester Village comes highly recommended in our book. Some tips:
· Don't go on a weekend, it's packed with people and families and children and lots of people who don't actually want to be there but are dragged there by their mothers and wind up just clogging up the aisles and walkways acting surly.
· Also, look at the map on the center's website before you go and make a plan of attack as merchandise tends to move quickly and, since the stores aren't very large, things get jumbled up by midday.
· Be prepared to eat lunch way early or way late (translation: bring a snack), because there are only three food service places at Bicester: Carluccio's, Pret-a-Manger and Villandry and when they're busy, they're busy.
· And, if you're flying back to the USA, don't forget to get your VAT forms filled out before you leave the shopping center—getting your VAT refund can save you up to 20% off your already discounted outlet prices.
· Bicester Village [Official Site]