BAG A BARGAIN AT BICESTER
You know how much I love a bargain, so at this time of the year I like to head to Bicester Village to make a head start on my Christmas shopping. That’s the plan when I set out, but usually I end up buying things for me – unable to resist the lure of knock down prices on designer labels – and often spending more by buying more than I would if I had paid full price for one item in a Sloane Street flagship store.
I love it! And even in the pouring rain, the reindeer still managed to look a bit magical.
But you and I know that’s not really the point. It’s the thrill of finding a real bargain that motivates me – and the thousands of other bargain hunters who go to Bicester Village every day of the week. Already popular (even royal Kate and Samantha Cameron are said to be fans) it is always packed and is now even busier, thanks to the new railway station that opened last month.
Guests arriving at Bicester Village Station by rail are welcomed at the state-of-the-art facility, which leads to the Bicester Village Information Hub – it is very swish – all marble, mirror and luxurious leather furniture.
I still prefer to drive, but if you go by car, you need to get up very, very early. My long-suffering husband drives me to Bicester Village at the crack of dawn at weekends and is kind enough to help carry all of my shopping bags.
We have a foolproof system. I do the shopping and he stays in the car, reading the papers. Once my arms are full and I can’t carry anymore, I phone him and he comes to collect the bags. This continues, with him doing a relay to and from the car until he gets fed up and decides it’s time for lunch. Last time this was at 11am, but by then I’d managed to fill the boot of the car with 20 bags, so not bad going.
Actually, Bicester offers Hands-free Shopping – a shopping collection service that arranges guests’ shopping to be ready to collect at their point of departure.
My bag-carrying husband is very fond of quoting his much-loved Scottish granny, Eliza, who was slightly suspicious of sales, saying ‘It’s only a bargain if you need it!’ I like to say ‘Bargains are always worth having – even if you don’t really need it!’
As a self-confessed serial shopper, I have some tried and trusted rules for bagging the best bargains…it has never failed me yet. See you in the queue at Bicester!
MY TOP TEN RULES FOR BICESTER BARGAIN HUNTERS
1. TAKE a small bottle of water – shopping is very thirsty work and you will not want to waste time queuing to buy drinks. There are always queues in the cafes at Bicester Village. If you arrive without water and have time before the shops open, go to the large Tesco store next door and buy a bottle. You won’t regret it.
2. DON’T forget your hand sanitiser – essential if you are paying by card and using keypads all the time. People have colds at this time of the year – stay germ free and use it to clean your hands after every transaction. I like Cuticura Sensitive Anti Bacterial Gel, £1.49 (Boots) It doesn’t dry your hands out as much as some hand sanitisers.
3. LEAVE your oversized handbag at home – it will only weigh you down and slow you down. I wear a cross-body mini bag that leaves my hands free for carrying all those carrier bags. Travel light, as you will be laden down when you leave.
4. WEAR shoes or boots that come off easily – important if you are trying on shoes. Don’t waste a minute undoing and doing up laces, or trying to struggle in and out of boots with difficult zips.
5.IF you are shopping for clothes, wear a skirt and top or a dress that are easier to remove more quickly than jeans and better for trying on things in a hurry. Don’t wear anything that you need to unbutton and button up – save time by wearing things you can pull on and off in seconds.
6. CHARGE your phone before you go – you can text or make calls while you are waiting in queues – it helps to pass the time and stops you from getting really irritated/hot/agitated by the length of the wait. I find queuing very stressful – particularly when the person in front of you saves a place for a friend, who
jumps in with armfuls of clothes. I keep a couple of Rescue Plus lozenges, £3.69 (Boots) in my pocket for these moments – instantly calming!
7. THE best item you can wear when shopping is a sleeves gilet with good-sized pockets – my favourite is the Uniqlo Down Vest, £39.90. It comes in a host of colours and – very important for any shopping trip – has pockets that are deep enough to stow a phone and a small bottle of water.
8. MOST of the shops at Bicester Village give you paper carrier bags, which are free in England – unlike plastic carrier bags which you have to pay 5p for (although I wasn’t charged in MaxMara and they gave me a plastic bag for my purchases) Look out for special buys – these White Company Pine Cone candles are a real bargain buy at £16 each and perfect for Christmas.
9. EAT before you go – the queues for food are incredibly long. Ditto the queues for the Ladies’ toilets. Don’t leave it until the last minute! When you do go, you’ll find the washrooms are really nicely done – all dark wood, soft lighting and Molton Brown hand wash and lotion, just like you would find in a top hotel. The decor is elegant and peaceful – a moment of calm before you head back out into the madness of the crowds outside. But you won’t want to loiter – every second counts!
10. IF you see something you want to buy, don’t delay – she who hesitates loses out. Your mantra should be – See It, Try It, Buy It. Thinking about it and going for a coffee doesn’t work – it will NOT be there when you go back to the shop.
There are 130 designer shops at Bicester Village
6.3 million people go to Bicester Village every year
Last year 9,800 Chinese tour buses visited Bicester
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