Yesterday I went to Bicester Village. I love an outlet park – as, judging by the crowds, does the rest of the world. And I mean rest of the world: Did you know that more than a quarter of all Bicester Village’s customers are Chinese, and that over there it’s better known than Harrods or Selfridges? Look, even the signs are translated into Mandarin:
There’s also a prayer room for Muslim customers:
Nothing promotes tolerance and inclusiveness like the whiff of profit.
I like Bicester because, with its faux New-England clapboard buildings and Disneyesque atmosphere, it reminds me of the Grove in LA. Both offer a similar shopping experience, but for me the Grove has the edge because it has a 14-screen cinema and a fountain that dances to Lionel Ritchie. If Bicester’s going to be up there with the world’s greatest malls, I’d suggest it gets itself a dancing fountain.
People get sneery about these places with their manicured lawns and chain names, thinking them bland and sanitised. But living in East London, bland and sanitised is a real treat (yes, I’m sorry, I liked it when they did up Spitalfields.)
In fact, my only objection to Bicester was the range of stuff on offer, which was a) horrible, and b) not very heavily discounted (I think that Tod’s sign was a lie.) I miss the old days when it first opened, when Whistles and DKNY were pretty well the only brands of note, but they were practically giving it to you. Today it’s all £900 Jimmy Choo handbags reduced to £600. Which is still a lot of money for a shiny great vulgar lump of leather.
But you can’t be a brand snob at Bicester. You may think Dolce cheesy and Dior naff, but lurking in the bargain bins at either, you might find a beautifully made, logo-free jumper for 20 quid. It pays to keep an open mind. Which is how I came to find myself going home with a blazer from (cough, splutter) Jack Wills.