Obviously, there’s nowhere like London for shopping, but that doesn’t mean you should limit yourself to the M25 area. There’s a whole other world out there, filled with Edwardian-themed home stores, luxury designer outlets, innovative book shops and salvage yards brimming with reclaimed interiors at bargain basement prices. So stretch your metaphorical legs, and take a short trip to one of these fantastic stores in the south of England.
Bicester Village, Oxfordshire
More than six million people visit this luxury designer outlet complex every year, and has become one of the country’s top tourist destinations — eight in ten of the Chinese visitors that come to London also squeeze in a visit to Bicester Village, a market that is the envy of aspiring developers across London (from Hackney Walk, for instance). Among the revered brands to be found in the village (great pains have been taken to make sure it does actually resemble one) are Prada, Dior, Alexander McQueen and Gucci, alongside more accessible options such as Cath Kidston, Karen Millen, Jack Wills and Hunter.
Garment Quarter, Bristol
Since its founding in 2012, this Bristol store has grown to be a consistent contender in the run downs on the UK’s best stores by the nation’s press. The high-end fashion boutique aims to combine New York’s Garment district with Manchester’s Northern Quarter (clever name, no?), with a strong focus on British design and craftsmanship. Garment Quarter stocks men’s and women’s clothing from a range of well-known designers, including Comme Des Garcons (the Japanese label behind London’s Dover Street Market), Versace, Victoria Beckham, Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood and Moschino.
Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, Bath
Hand’s down one of the best independents in the country, Mr. B’s is everything a bookstore should be. Set over three floors in one of Bath’s attractive Georgian buildings, the cosy, inviting store really does try to focus on the ‘pleasure’ of reading. Of the more innovating features is the famous ‘Bibliotherapy Room’; for £80 you can purchase a Mr B’s reading Spa package, which gets you one-on-one time with one of the knowledgeable booksellers, who will learn about your reading tastes over a cup of coffee or tea and a slice of cake, before scurrying off into the recesses of the store and returning with a tower of specially selected books. Included in the price of the ‘spa’ is £55 worth of credit to put towards your recommendations, a Mr B’s mug and a tote bag. It’s personal touches like this that make Mr B’s so special; they also have rentable reading booths for sampling books, free tea and coffee, comfy armchairs in front of a fireplace, toilets plastered with book reviews, and highly personalised book displays. The owners also place a great deal of emphasis on the need to create a community of book lovers to keep their store afloat — a need that is met by a calendar packed with book groups and exclusive, interactive evenings with authors featuring dinner, drinks and live music.
Dorton Reclaim, Sussex
This large salvage yard in Sussex is the place to go to for unique, reclaimed pieces for your home or garden. Decorative items and building materials (including radiators, cast iron candle holders, fireplaces, antique lantern cages, and gorgeously ornate doors), are removed from demolition sites and brought to the yard, where savvy shoppers can have a good rummage before they pop up in the vintage interior stores of East London, heavily marked up price tags in tow. The pieces up for grabs may be in need of some TLC, but those prepared to put in the effort will reap the rewards. Some of the more intriguing items recently for sale include a range of church pulpits, stained glass windows, and a red telephone box — sign up for email updates to be kept informed on all the hottest swag.
Station Goods Yard, Station Road, Burgess Hill, RH15 9DG, +44 1444 253333
British fragrance houses may have been making a comeback in recent years, but Pecksniff’s is not among them — having traded out of its Brighton boutique for over 30 years, this independent fragrance and cosmetic house is a veteran among novices. As well as selling an excellent ready-to-wear collection, Pecksniffs also craft bespoke fragrances and cosmetics — book a fragrance consultation and create your own! They will store your formula allowing you to reorder at a later date; or, if you want to go whole hog, they can develop your scent into a bath and body care range, creating an entire ‘fragrance wardrobe’ for you or as a gift. In more recent years, Pecksniffs opened a nearby Pamper Studio, offering a range of luxury treatments. Best of all, Pecksniffs make a firm promise never to test their products on animals.
45-46 Meeting House Lane, Brighton, BN1 1HB, +44 1273 723292
Windsor Royal Shopping, Windsor
Up to 180,000 people visit this upscale shopping centre each week, drawn by the intriguing array of stores as well as the centre’s distinct look. Windsor Royal Shopping centre can be found opposite the gorgeous Windsor Castle, and is housed inside a Grade II-listed, glass covered Victoria Railway Station. The centre houses over 40 shops; a 7-day-a-week arts and craft market; a great selection of restaurants, bars and cafes; and has retained the majority of its beautiful original features, including cobbled stone walkways, Queen Victoria’s personal waiting room including a model of the stoic lady herself, and the magnificent Jubilee Arch.
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