Why did Bicester staff say there were ‘outlet-only’ lines?
It boasts 80 brands, but they tend to be high-end High Street.
‘The product that is sold at our Gap Outlet stores is specifically designed and produced for our outlet stores,’ a spokesman later confirmed, adding that shoppers can tell the difference from the tags - outlet ones have three square dots on them.
At the luxury label Michael Kors outlet in Bicester, which is heaving with shoppers queuing five-deep at the tills, the situation is even more confusing.
From the amount of business it appears to be doing, it’s difficult to imagine how excess stock could fill its shelves year round.
When I contacted them, UGG responded: ‘Our Essential range comprises of discontinued mainline styles that are made for outlets to offer customers a more diverse range of product and prices than found in our traditional stores.
‘Originally the luxury brands were family-run companies that were small, niche companies for niche clientele, for the creme-de- la-creme, and they were really snobby,’ says Dana Thomas, author of Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Lustre.‘But since these companies were mostly taken over by business tycoons who saw them as a good investment and a good way to make money, they came at it with a far more capitalist point of view where they said, “Let’s sell as much and make as much profit as we can.”Of course, not all outlet shopping is as exclusive as Bicester.Swindon Designer Outlet is one of six villages from Kent to Cheshire operated by Mc Arthur Glen.While some, 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.In Bicester, there’s a note pinned to the counter, barely glanced at by shoppers, that reads: ‘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.’ I ask about a trench coat that is discounted from £360 to £183.20 and am told it is made for the outlet.For that fantastic designer bargain you picked up might not be quite what it seems.