Are you sometimes tempted to shop in a designer outlet to get the best bargain ever? We tend to think that by shopping there we hunt not only for a bargain, because regular prices in outlets are often discounted, but that the price for our coveted designer item will be even lower becuase they sell stuff from previous seasons. If you have ever thought like that, we can tell you it is not quite right. Today, we will take you round the best known London outlets but most importantly – we will debunk the myth about their splendour and will show you how they really work. Ready to learn the truth?
Truth about Outlet Shopping
It can be shocking for some of us, but it is better to know the truth earlier than to live in a mist of ignorance or travel miles and miles to an outlet for a designer item while it is far from what the brand store really offers. It is not common knowledge that stores are manufacturing lines solely to be sold in outlet stores, and marking as ‘discounted’ stock items that have never been sold at full-price. How many a times, being in an outlet designer store, you have wondered what collection this is or why you have never come across a thing in their regular store. It is more than that – they produce almost identical items only the quality and details are different than that of the original stuff. If we haven’t got an original thing to compare with at the moment, we will be misled into thinking that we are buying an original item at a discount.
What is more – if we spot a difference and ask a shop assistant to explain why the two almost identical bags differ, they will have a whole list of arguments which will be only partially telling us the truth. So be prepared for the fact that when you buy your Michael Kors handbag in an outlet, it will look like the regular one but will differ in terms of the overall quality, the logo, the lining, everything which makes the handbag not really the same. While some brands, such as Dunhill and Armani, are clear that they only sell stock left over from their main stores, others admit they sell a mixture of last-season stock and stock made specially for the outlet.
The Devil is in the Detail
Big companies make two collections: regular & outlet. The regular collection: is the main one, with the novelties and editorial pieces, seasonal colour pallets and current trends. Outlet collection is inspired by the regular collection, focused on best sellers and staples. Sometimes they use the same colour palette or graphics, with less expensive trims, buttons, hardware, zippers, rivets, tags, stitching, etc. Discount: this is where the merchandise goes after being on sale for two or more seasons. High end companies like Hermes, Ferragamo, Balenciaga, etc. have two sample sales a year where they get rid of all the old inventory, with 20,30,40,50 or even 70% discount. This type of event takes place in cities where they have their showrooms (London, Milan, NYC, Paris). We have recently written about it on our ShopTrotter blog.
And one tip: if you happen to outlet shop, please read all notices that are sometimes purposefully hidden away from customers’ sight. They explain the brand’s policy but the store hopes customers not necessarily read the notice. In the Coach outlet store for instance we have spotted:
‘”The product assortment in all Coach outlet stores is a mix of past seasons’ product from our Coach branded stores and new-season products made specifically for our Outlet stores.”
So be careful what you buy in outlets if you are hoping to get gems from the regular collection.
Where to go for Outlet Shopping in London?
London isn’t a mecca for outlet shopping, with most of the best outlet stores located outside of the capital itself, so if you are still keen on visiting one, you must take the time of getting there into account.
That said, there are a few outlet stores for specific brands that are worth a visit and are still pretty close to London Centre. Probably the best are on Chatham Place in Hackney.
Only a short walk from the Hackney Central station, your first destination in this area is Pringle of Scotland. Housing past collections from the brand at a weighty discount, this heritage brand is a must visit.
Opposite this store is Anya Hindmarch. You will love the shop just as we do. The interior still has that luxurious feel that is sometimes missing in an outlet store. You can be easily leaving with bags full of shopped items as the prices are hugely discounted. All stock is from their previous collections and the accessories are at really affordable prices so if you think of buying something for yourself or as a present, this is an ideal place to do it.
The Burberry store is quite different to a typical store from this brand. The luxury feel is somewhat stunted but there is no denying the bargains there are awesome. And you can be sure you will get a great selection of the brand’s past collections.
Back to Central London
Located in central London, the Paul Smith store is tucked away on Avery Row and is one of very few outlets which manages to join that luxury feel with the discounted setting. You will get there a wide range of playful accessories which are a great way to subtly show off your fashion credentials. Really worth a visit.
The Joseph outlet store on the King’s Road has some great hidden gems tucked between their own brand clothing. You can get there a Stella McCartney dress or a Victoria Beckham dress for less than half price.
Further down the road is the LK Bennett outlet, which is worth a visit when you are around but in general there is not a great deal of stock, so if you hope for a wide range, do not get disappointed.
Out of London Outlet Shopping
Finally, if you don’t mind a trip out of town the best place to go outlet shopping in the UK is Bicester Village Oxfordshire, an hour’s train journey from Marylebone station. Here you’ll find more than 130 boutiques from every top brand from Mulberry to Ralph Lauren, all offering up to 60% off. It is a nice trip and Oxfordshire is a beautiful area needless to say. You can always pop into Oxford on your way back to London to do some cultural stuff there after hours spent in between shop railings and tons of designer clothes.