Chic Outlet Shopping® has put a spring in my traveler’s step
“There are three main types of shoppers,” declared my best friend, in another attempt to justify her shopping habit. “There are the lazy ones who cannot bear to rummage through racks of clothes and often just buy what they need; the impulse shopper, who buys the first thing that fits and often makes emotional purchases; then there are people like us – shoppers looking for a great day out, willing to pay for quality, but not at those dastardly high retail prices.”
Fair enough, I thought. The “lazy” need-based shopper was a demographic I sometimes lapsed into, but when it came to high-end designer goods that are often priced just out of my reach; I understood the need for a more savvy shopping strategy.
Like every good traveler to Europe, I had done my research. Armed with various lists of must-sees and must-dos, an address book of restaurants and cafes to visit and a little calculator to compute my Value Added Tax (VAT) refunds, we packed our bags and headed off to Europe for two weeks’ worth of decadent eating, shopping and sightseeing.
First on the itinerary was Paris – variously known as the city of love, city of lights, and fashion capital of the world. Strolling down the famous shopping street Le Champs-Élysées, going past the beautiful shop windows and exploring the stunning Galleries Lafayette were truly an assault on the senses – and boy were we itching to shop!
Savvy travelers that we are, La Vallée Village, one of nine Chic Outlet Shopping® Villages in Europe, and a forty minute trip outside of central Paris, was the answer to our shopping needs. If buying French brands in France made economic sense because goods are normally sold at a lower retail price in their country of origin, (and far cheaper than they are here in Singapore) imagine even greater savings on luxury items at La Vallée Village. Home-grown brands such as Givenchy and Agnès b stand alongside international brands like Burberry, Paul Smith and Dolce and Gabbana to thrill the urbane fashionista. The men aren’t left out either – Armani, Calvin Klein, Facconable and many other brands promise excellent prices at up to 60% off on the original recommended retail price, and I picked my boyfriend out a super cool Paul Smith T-shirt to keep him happy on my return. Of course, this was pulled out of my case at the perfect moment, when he made a few grumblings about quite how much bigger my case was coming home than it was setting off. In fact, the case was new… a beautiful Tumi number from the Village with a saving of 50% that will make my future travels even more enjoyable.
Back to my Parisian shopping adventure. A shoe-lover at heart, I zeroed in to the Jimmy Choo boutique, eager to get my hands on a pair or two of the beautiful – and let’s not be coy, rather sexy designs. Rack upon rack of shoes greeted me, neatly arranged by size and color. I though I’d died and gone to heaven. Within no time at all, I had found a pair of hot red heels, the kind immortalized by Carrie Bradshaw in Sex in the City.
With a skip in my step, I headed next to one of my favorite names in fashion, the Salvatore Ferragamo boutique, where sales assistants decked out in smart suits were ready to be of assistance. Twenty minutes later, I walked out of the store with a pair of their iconic Varina ballerina flats and a pair of smart Oxford shoes, both purchased with 40% off the recommended retail price. In addition, and this is true of all the Village boutiques I visited, I received an envelope containing a receipt and tax refund form – so yes, more savings on an already reduced-price item. Yes indeed.
The hallmarks of differentiation that set these nine luxury outlet Villages apart are the combined standards of exclusivity, offer and service, with all the trappings associated with a luxury store on the world’s most prestigious high streets (think London’s Bond Street, or New York’s Fifth Avenue) the bonus is the year round savings of up to 60%, plus added Tax Free benefits. Tax refund counters are even located at the villages, allowing customers to bypass the often long airport VAT refund queues. And if you’re anything like me, you’re trying to make the most of your time abroad, and so cut the airport check-in a little too fine, leaving no time for the Tax Refund counter! Such excellent service and attention to detail makes Chic Outlet Shopping® the ultimate choice for smart shoppers visiting Europe.
To round off the day, and with my bags in tow, I headed with my two girlfriends to the excellent Auberge de la Brie in Couilly-Pont-aux-Dames, one of the highly rated Michelin restaurants a short taxi journey from La Vallée Village. Our shopping adventure had certainly worked up an appetite, and we needed one for the classically French, indulgently delicious, ‘no butter spared’ dishes we were about to enjoy. The food and wine was divine, and I would recommend Auberge de la Brie to anyone who heads in its general direction.
Comparing our new acquisitions over dinner, my best friends and I were hopeful that the Village on the next leg of our journey would offer a similarly wonderful shopping experience.
A week later, Kildare Village in Ireland’s iconic Dublin City offered just that. Located just a short trip from the city centre, getting to the Village was a breeze on the daily shuttle service (which cost 22€ for a round-trip ticket. Shuttle buses in other Villages are priced in a similar range). Upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Kildare Village looked quite different from La Vallée Village; indeed, the architecture of each Chic Outlet Shopping® Village is designed to reflect the culture and heritage of the city it is located in. With its pedestrianised boulevards and cosy shops, Kildare Village felt intimate and friendly, yet relaxed and convivial – much like the spirit of the Irish people.
The first boutique I visited was the men’s suit and tie experts, Pink. Once again, I was thinking of the man I’d left behind. I bought him a stylish tie for work, and at just €20, it was a steal. The cost of a similar tie in the same store in Singapore is likely to be five times as much, so the day was off to a roaring start.
The standard of boutiques at Kildare Village is second to none. The Village, the baby of the collection (it’s just a few years old), may be small, but it packs a punch in terms of brands, with Anya Hindmarch, Bally, TSE Cashmere, Myla, and Polo Ralph Lauren to name a few.
We left Kildare Village at the end of the day with some exciting buys, and I for one stocked up on some serious Beach Chic at the brand new Elizabeth Hurley Beach Hut boutique. Another great brand we encountered was Le Creuset, a French cookware manufacturer best known for its colorful enameled cast iron casseroles. My dear mother would have loved to be there; and I bought her a heart shaped baby soufflé dish as a souvenir of my trip.
Postcards and photographs are great things to bring home after an epic trip overseas, but I also love a souvenir that can be worn or used on a regular basis – much like a scarf from Missoni in La Vallée Village, or an Anya Hindmarch purse from Kildare Village to remind me of my adventures.
Our European Shopcation was effortless to plan; not only did we indulge in some seriously luxe retail therapy, but with the savings that we made we were able to travel in style and check out some fabulous hotels and restaurants along the way. ChicOutletShopping.com has an ingenious section on the website that helps you to Plan Your Visit.
What’s next? Later in the year I plan to visit Munich’s Ingolstadt Village, which I’ve heard is a shopper’s paradise. With Singapore Airlines launching a direct flight to Munich in April, there really are no excuses not to go (well, I like to tell myself that anyway!) It’s the “luxe for less” philosophy that is the way of the smart, sophisticated traveler and I look forward to continuing my European adventure, and to visit the other Villages in London, Madrid, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Brussels and Milan.