Conjure any dream of traveling to Europe and it will likely include visions of brisk walks on crowded, narrow city lanes with arms ringed in shopping bags. No doubt there will be a Starbuck’s somewhere in view but the mottled ornaments of aged storefronts along half cobbled streets breathe life into this walk as you shop as if so many memories depend on it.
And they do. Travel to Europe is as much about shopping as it is about art, parks and sidewalk bistros. But therein lies the caveat. Who isn’t drawn in by the dramatic rug bazaars of Istanbul only to end up with a pile of woolen dust collectors in the attic? Those precious shoes purchased in Milan? The blisters tell the tale. Never mind about that French corset. The Champs-Élysées can be a charming, if not challenging, temptress.
Although it is the stuff of dreams to wander the fashion streets of Paris, Milan, Barcelona and London, one company has figured out a solution to getting the best buys and the most convenient experience out of a European shopping venture without sacrificing Europe: Chic Outlet Shopping villages. These are nine outdoor shopping communities outside Europe’s top shopping cities – Paris, London, Madrid, Barcelona, Dublin, Milan, plus two in Germany and one in Belgium. Each village is designed as a quaint neighborhood rooted in the local traditions of the location.
Chic Outlet village may be the way to go for visitors who: want a comfortable and convenient shopping experience; want to be able to explore a region’s styles and local items without the frenzy of finding the right stores and great service; want to maximize their time in Europe visiting great museums and castles and may have little time to shop; and for those who want so secure better deals than they would find at city centre or in the U.S.
Each village offers somewhere between 60 and 140 name-brand boutiques, restaurants and cafes with local and continental menus. There will be a strong mix of regionally famous boutiques, brands and designers with the other, more internationally known brands but all steeped in an environment that is calm and quaint, ambient and easy.
For example, revered designer show spots such as Anya Hindmarch, N. Peal, Church’s and Louise Kennedy mixed with familiar names like DNKY and Hugo Boss can be found at the Kildare Village location some 40-minutes drive from Dublin along what is expressly scenic horse country (and the Village is located right next to a 300-year-old stone church).
You can try on a ruby red Valentino gown (without the intimidation factor!) at La Vallée Village, less than an hour from the Champs-Élysées in Paris and minutes away from the Paris Disney gates (there are shuttles between the theme park and the shopping village for families with divergent interests). Also check out Céline, Givenchy and Anne Fontaine between dips into D&C or Tumi or Tod’s.
Just an hour from Madrid and close to some amazing Spanish castles and monasteries, Las Rozas Village brings on Custo Barcelona, the Pretty Ballerinas’ (for pumps and espadrilles); the Hoss Intropia, Bimba & Lola and Desigual. And, of course there is Armani, CH Carolina Herrera, La Perla, Escada, Versace and many other upscale designer fronts. But there is one huge difference: price.
But because Chic Outlets presents a discount system, U.S. visitors will find many of the items at these villages to be significantly less expensive than they would find shopping at home or in European cities.
Try this on for size: A recent dip into Anne Fontaine at Paris’s La Vallée location netted three exquisite blouses for less than $200 total, plus some kind and focused customer service to help. A counterpart store at a designer outlet mall in the U.S. – on Black Friday – found nary a Tee shirt on sale for less than $200 and forget the customer service.
And there are other advantages: visitors receive a “passport” at each visitor’s center for a Village-wide discount, access to personal shoppers, and the option to receive VIP treatment at a concierge lounge for relaxing between splurges. Foreign shoppers (with non-EU passports) can receive a VAT refund for qualifying purchases. These figures vary country to country, but visitors are usually left trying to brave long lines at the airport refund desk en route back to the U.S. or mailing receipts into the ether if they wish to try to collect a percentage of what they spent. At the Chic Outlet villages, new tax refund and currency stations are getting set up onsite so shoppers can collect on-the-spot refunds. A model kiosk was launched in November in Bicester Village outside of London.
U.S. travelers are further reminded that they can spend up to $800 on clothing and luxury goods (and bring home all of a liter of wine) before tariffs apply … and not to mention those extra baggage fees.
Since shopping is topping activities lists for many travelers bound for Europe, mixing shopping sojourns with city tours, visits to art museums, trendy dining experiences, and trips to castles and monuments is now in vogue for companies selling Europe vacations.
For instance, Spain offers two Chic Outlet villages: Las Rozas near Madrid and La Roca near Barcelona. Both cities provide the panoply of arts and culture that attract international visitors, but shopping at a Chic Outlet village makes a nice segue between cities and each is located in a spot worthy of visiting in its own right. All Chic Outlet venues partner with a variety of top hotels in each key city and also offer regularly scheduled shuttle transportation from city centres.
A U.S. company representing Chic Outlets packages offers complete Europe experiences for individuals: drivers, hotels, restaurants, attractions, tours and international air in perfect mix and match packages that ensure shopping will not be a casualty of too much to do, too little time.
(800) 421-5643 (ext 2006)