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Outlet Shopping - The Price Is So Right

Published: 01/10/2007 - Filed under: Features » Features » Lifestyle » Archive » 2007 » October 2007 » Lifestyle »

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The BTAP team travels across Asia and the Pacific through to Europe and the US in search of unique shopping experiences, and finds that there's something for everyone.

Shopping spaces are no longer confined to just air-conditioned malls offering floor after floor of almost identical boutiques and stores, with window displays screaming for the attention of even the less-interested consumer. These days a shopping experience entails a well-planned retail village boasting pedestrian-friendly paved streets in spacious leafy environs, complete with an exciting mix of upscale international labels (at cut-throat prices!) and a host of entertainment options. We suggest some from around the world.



WHAT’S IT LIKE? Australia’s first purpose-built outlet shopping precinct, Harbour Town opened its first outlet in 1999 on Queensland’s Gold Coast and has since expanded to Adelaide and Perth, both launched in 2003. Its Melbourne outlet will be ready next year. Harbour Town Gold Coast is the biggest of the three at 55,000sqm with over 120 outlets; Adelaide is 23,000sqm with over 90 outlets and Perth is 21,000sqm with over 100 outlets. A Tourism Lounge was recently added to offer its Gold Coast shoppers services such as directory information, tour bookings, internet access and dedicated space for incentive groups.

With more than 120 shops – carrying some 380 different brands ­– occupying a clustered layout, shopping and browsing here takes time and patience. While the spacious layout guarantees you won’t hit an elbow, orientation can be tricky for those who are used to shopping by departments, for example apparel, footwear or home accessories. Instead, what you’ll find is a mishmash of merchandise at every turn of the street, from beach wear to intimates, bags and accessories to bed linens and homeware, plus a plethora of surprises like in-store promotions. Even a bookstore, Angus & Robertson is worth spending hours just to browse. The best time to shop? On a weekday, when you don’t have to battle with the locals.

After the retail therapy, dine in any of the air-conditioned or alfresco cafés or restaurants, or catch a movie at one of 14 Reading Cinemas theatres. There’s a Woolworths supermarket, banks and ATM machines, a chemist, dentist, tailor, gift shops and Brumby’s, renowned for its lamingtons (squares of chocolate-dipped sponge cake coated with desiccated coconut) which are arguably the best in town.

WHAT’S SPECIAL? Shoppers will find a Who’s Who of Aussie designers like Lisa Ho (bohemian is her specialty), Witchery (elegant ladies’ work and casual wear), Quiksilver and Rip Curl for surfing gear, RM Williams for boots, and Sheridan for quality bed linens and towels. International labels include Polo Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Diesel, Nine West, Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, Simone Pérèle, Lonsdale London and Royal Doulton. Fashionistas will certainly make a beeline for the haute couture area, stocking brands like Armani Jeans, Bazar by Christian Lacroix, Escada, DKNY, Dolce & Gabbana and Versace. The list of Harbour Town tenants just keeps getting longer – latest additions include Bohemia Crystal; Hybrid, a sports and lifestyle outlet for Industrie, Skechers, Puma, Merrell, Lacoste, Mossimo, Freshjive, Everlast, Abercrombie & Fitch and Juicy; and Evolution for men and women’s fashion.

PRICES: Shoppers can enjoy up to 60 percent savings on purchases, compared with normal retail prices.

GETTING THERE: Corner of Gold Coast Highway and Oxley Drive (15 minutes by car north of Surfers Paradise). Transfers are offered from selected hotels and apartments.

DETAILS: Biggera Waters, Queensland 4216, Australia, tel 61 7 5529 1734, Open from 0900 to 1730, Mon-Wed, Fri and Sat; Thur from 0900 to 1900; Sun from 1000 to 1700. Closed on major public holidays.

Julian Tan



WHAT’S IT LIKE? This is a collection of over 200 shops, occupying a spacious 110,000sqm, selling international luxury labels at hefty discounts. Brands from China are also represented. Though shops carry mostly pieces from the previous season, odd sizes and last pieces, it’s a noteworthy attempt to combat the huge industry of fake goods in China, and protect the integrity of branded goods.

The layout of Shanghai Outlets, which is operated by the Bailian Group and Wharf China, emulates those found in Europe. Shops are not found in a high-rise building but rather, housed in individual units set on sprawling grounds featuring lush landscaping. There are three sections: A offers about 40 shops, showcasing renowned names such as Hugo Boss, Armani, Cerutti 1881, Bally, Burberry, Dunhill and Zegna among others; B is more mid-range and suited to the younger and more active market with labels such as Adidas, Nike, Esprit, Nautica, Sisley, Benetton, FCUK, As Know As and Natural JoJo, and also stocks sizes for larger women and children’s wear; C has the home-grown brand names and also the food outlets. In addition, there are entertainment facilities for non-shoppers and a playground.

WHAT’S SPECIAL? Forget the in-store aesthetics – more shops exude a factory feel but that’s alright, because the nice prices make it worthwhile. If heading there on a weekend or public holiday, anticipate throngs of visitors from the neighbouring provinces. Better to shop there on a weekday. As a fair amount of walking is necessary and some places are not air conditioned, shoppers should wear comfortable shoes and clothing.

PRICES: Discounts range from 50 to 70 percent depending on the brand. For brands that rarely shave off their prices, there is even the possibility of getting a 15 percent saving.

GETTING THERE: Shanghai Outlets is situated in the Qingpu District in the Zhaoxiang area. If driving, take the A9 highway towards direction Huzhou, turn off at Sheshan exit and then turn right to Huqingping Highway. Look out for a big intersection on Huqingping Highway and spot the Shanghai Outlets sign. Travel time from the city can be anywhere between 30 and 50 minutes.

DETAILS: 2888 Huqingping Highway, Qingpu District, Shanghai, China, tel 86 21 5975 6060. Open daily from 1000 to 2100.

Claire Lin



WHAT’S IT LIKE? Hongkong’s first and only outlet mall is ensconced in a futuristic glass structure one can’t miss either on the way to or from the international airport. Start the exploration of the five-storey, 42,995-square-metre complex by consulting the concierge. Mostly sports brands are found on the ground level and the upper ones devoted to designer stuff. Restaurants specialising in Vietnamese and Shanghainese provide sustenance after the urge to splurge is satisfied.

WHAT’S SPECIAL? Every single store is a discount outlet, which frequently slash the prices even further. Name merchandise include Bally, Calvin Klein Underwear, Vivienne Tam, Polo Ralph Lauren, Adidas, Timberland, K-Swiss, Follie Follie, Evita Peroni, Arnold Palmer, Lanvin, Fred Perry, Jill Stuart, Esprit and The Body Shop.

PRICES: Discounts of 30 to 70 percent, making it certainly worth the trip out there.

GETTING THERE: By car, take the No. 3 Expressway and the North Lantau Expressway directly to Tung Chung. Over a thousand parking slots are available in both the southern and northern car park towers of Citygate Outlets. By MTR, hop onto the Tung Chung Line from Hongkong Island, Kowloon or Disneyland and alight at Tung Chung Station; then head for Exit C.

DETAILS: 20 Tat Tung Road, Tung Chung, Lantau, Hongkong, tel 852 2109 2933, Open from 1000 to 2200 daily.

Anisah Ahmad



WHAT’S IT LIKE? Indonesians, especially Jakarta residents, love their malls. The presence of sprawling retail complexes in different parts of the city attests to this. And they, too, love their fashion outlets (known in the local parlance as “sisa export” or “asli-palsu”, ie real fakes). One fine example is the five-storey Fashion Warehouse in Senayan.

WHAT’S SPECIAL? Unlike the factory outlets of Bandung and Bogor – a two-and-a-half hours’ drive from Jakarta – Fashion Warehouse offers a pleasant experience. It’s air conditioned and the numerous racks are neatly organised with overruns and seconds from apparel bywords such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Eddie Bauer, Nautica, Fendi, Hugo Boss, DKNY, Esprit, Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani, Crocodile, Alfred Dunhill, Nike, Reebok, Limited, Gap, Banana Republic, Guess, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Adidas, Puma, Dolce & Gabbana, NY & Company, Old Navy, Gianni Versace and Express. Many items still carry a US-dollar price tag, although it’s rupiah you pay. Since rejects are also sold, buyers would be wise to carefully inspect what they intend to buy.

PRICES: A Versace shirt would normally cost Rp1,000,000.00 (US$100), but is sold at Fashion Warehouse for Rp190,000.00 (US$19). Depending on the agreements between buyers/factories and factory outlets, the items are often put up for sale three to six months after they are sold full price in the regular stores.

GETTING THERE: The outlet is just opposite the Senayan Sports Complex in the CBD. Take any reliable Bluebird Taxi and make your life easier.

DETAILS: Jl Gerbang Pemuda, Kav 3 Komp, Taman Ria Senayan, Jakarta, Indonesia, tel 62 2 1251218. Open daily 1000 to 2100.

N Mark Castro



WHAT’S IT LIKE? Ninety minutes from central Tokyo is Gotemba, a suburban district a stone’s throw from the famous Mount Fuji. This unlikely setting is where you’ll find Japan’s most popular outlet mall, a large but neat collection of buildings always bustling with people. Divided into two zones, East and West, orientation is easy. Each zone has wide paved “streets” flanked on either side by large, clearly signposted stores.

To get from one zone to the other, visitors must travel over an open-air bridgeway, surrounded by the greenery and water of the local area, the perfect place to take a breath before plunging back into the serious business of shopping. As you might expect from Japan, everything is spotlessly clean and efficiently run, staff speak a smattering of English and a wide range of restaurants offer food at a reasonable price. Avoid the crowds by visiting mid-week.

WHAT’S SPECIAL? Japan is a seriously label-loving nation and central Tokyo bursts with high-end designer clothes at sky-high prices. This outlet mall provides the same style for those on a budget, and as a result is wildly popular. Over 100 stores sell all the big brands, including Jimmy Choo, Vivienne Westwood, Gucci, Ralph Lauren and Versace. For those looking to spend a few yen less, there are outlet versions of popular Japanese stores such as Tomorrowland, where last season’s styles are on offer for a fraction of the original cost. Whichever brand they choose, customers receive the same excellent level of service as in central Tokyo and each shop is beautifully laid out.

PRICES: Deep discounts are on offer across the stores, although discovering the pre-sale price can sometimes be tricky. In general, the designer shops have discounts of between 30 and 60 percent.

A word of warning, the sizes for both clothes and footwear are typically Japanese, meaning larger shoppers may struggle to find anything in their size. Luckily, accessories and homeware fit everybody, and both are amply represented here.

GETTING THERE: The easiest way to reach Gotemba from central Tokyo is to take the train from Shinjuku. The “Asagiri 3” runs four times a day directly to Gotemba and costs ¥2,920 (US$25) each way. When you arrive at the station, take the right-hand exit and you’ll see a specially marked bus stop. A free shuttle arrives every 15 minutes and will take you to the mall.

DETAILS: 1312 Fukasawa, Gotemba-Shi, Shizhuoka, Japan 412 0023, tel 81 550 81 3122, Open daily from 1000 to 2200, except the third Thursday in February.

Kate Graham



WHAT’S IT LIKE? Located on the edge of the famous Cotswold Hills, Bicester Village is Britain’s most famous outlet centre and has long been a favourite with local fashionistas.

The village itself is low-rise and elegant, with wide leafy streets and white-painted wooden shopfronts, and the staff are friendly, making for a civilised and relaxing shopping experience. The food is also a high point – hungry shoppers can fill up on first-class pasta at Carluccio’s (make sure you take home something from the deli on the way out), while lighter options are provided courtesy of London’s favourite sandwich chain, Pret a Manger.

Nearby attractions include the historic university city of Oxford, the 18th-century Blenheim Palace, and Raymond Blanc’s two Michelin-starred restaurant at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.

Bicester Village is part of Chic Outlet Shopping in Europe, whose eight other high-end outlets are La Vallée Village Paris, Las Rozas Village Madrid, La Roca Village Barcelona, Fidenza Village Milan, Maasmechelen Village Brussels/Dusseldorf, Wertheim Village Frankfurt, Ingolstadt Village Munich and Kildare Village Dublin.

WHAT’S SPECIAL? Like all the members of the Chic Outlet Shopping in Europe group, Bicester Village focuses on leading local brands, as well as the usual international names. For men in particular, this is the place to come to get the classic British look without paying Savile Row prices. Pick up a business suit from legendary tailors Gieves & Hawkes for just £350 (US$707) and team it with a pair of classic brogues from Church’s, or for something more cutting-edge but still irreproachably cut, go to Paul Smith or Ozwald Boateng.

Female shoppers can also stock up on some of the best of British fashion from brands including Karen Millen, Burberry and Mulberry, as well as gorgeous girly accessories from Cath Kidston, crisp linen and cosy dressing gowns from The White Company, Molton Brown toiletries and scented candles from Penhaligon’s. Other favourites include cashmere specialists TSE and Loro Piana, luggage labels Tumi and Samsonite, and ubiquitous luxury brands such as Polo Ralph Lauren, Versace and TAG Heuer. Outdoor enthusiasts are also well catered for – sailing supplier Musto has a great range of bargain options, while other sporty brands include North Face, Helly Hansen, Quiksilver and Reebok.

PRICES: Reductions are 30 to 60 percent. 

GETTING THERE: From central London, a regular train service runs from London Marylebone station to Bicester North (up to four an hour, journey time one hour, return fares from £20.50/US$41), and a shuttle bus connects on to Bicester Village. Alternatively, the centre is about one and a half hours by car from London, and less than an hour from Heathrow or Birmingham airports.

DETAILS: 50 Pingle Drive, Bicester, OX26 6WD, England, tel 44 1 869 323200, Open all year round (except Christmas Day), Mon-Fri, 1000 to 1930; Sat, 1000 to 1900; and Sun, 1000 to 1800.

Lucy Fitzgeorge-Parker



WHAT’S IT LIKE? A one-level, Mediterranean-style discounted shopping village offering 110 designer stores and still counting – over 25 stores will be added in autumn 2008. Premium Outlets is available at 41 locations in the US, six in Japan (including Gotemba), one in Korea and another in Mexico City.

The Orlando outlets opened in 2000 and is a themed attraction in itself, being near the Walt Disney World Resort. Facilities on-site include a food court, an information centre, stroller and wheelchair rental, foreign currency exchange, booth for purchase of tickets to nearby attractions, ATMs and lockers. Evenings are the best for shopping, just when the kids are at Disneyland watching the fireworks. Tip: join for free the online VIP Shopper Club (before you get there, of course!) for deals around town, insider information from your favourite brands, sales and special events through email updates, contests, access to the VIP Club Lounge, exclusive shopping coupons online and a voucher for VIP Coupon Book.

WHAT’S SPECIAL? Brands, brands and more brands – Barneys New York, Coach, Diesel, Kenneth Cole, Banana Republic, Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Ann Taylor, Burberry, Fendi, Gap, Giorgio Armani, Lacoste, BCBG Max Azria, MaxMara, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tod’s and more.

PRICES: Daily discounts of 25 to 65 percent.

GETTING THERE: Take the I-Ride Trolley, a daily shuttle from hotels along International Drive, to stop #43 southbound.

DETAILS: 8200 Vineland Avenue, Orlando, Florida 32821, US, tel 1 407 238 7787, From 1000 to 2300 Mon-Sat, and Sun from 1000 to 2100 (check the website for operating times during Thanksgiving).

Julian Tan

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