These official - and secret - factory and warehouse stores are the best places to discover real bargains on clothes and accessories you never dreamed you could afford.
If you've ever suspected that the goods on offer at some "Discount" outlets were made just for sale at the outlets, or that some of the so-called designer brands exist only in the world of the outlets, you are probably right a lot of the time.
Some brands will have one or two stores on high streets or in town centers (with inflated prices) just to establish some credibility and to be able to claim they are offering big discounts. You can find out easily enough. Check the "store locator" on the brand's website. If most of their shops and stockists are in discount outlets, you've got your answer.
Devoted shophounds who do their research do bag bargains at outlet malls. But the best deals, on the top goods come directly from the manufacturers at official factory stores. These are some of the best for classic British fashion brands.
Burberry and Aquascutum
Hollywood may have created the indelible image of the foreign correspondent in a tan trench coat, but Aquascutum invented the world's first waterproof cloth that made the trench coat possible. The company sells luxury British made tailoring around the world. Just across London's Regent Street is its competitor Burberry - the company that invented gabardine. Burberry markets its easily identified tan, red, black and white plaid (scarves, umbrellas, wallets) in the discount malls.
But, for their classic raincoat, based the company's designs for the British Army, or waterproof British tailoring from Aquascutum, you have to go to their factory stores. Be prepared to spend though because 30% to 50% off the full price can still result in a hefty price tag when the full price for a woman's trench coat ranges from £650 to £2,000.
Conveniently, the competing factory stores are practically neighbours:
- Aquascutum Factory Store, 7-9 Chatham Place, Hackney, London E9 6LT, open every day from 10am to 6:30pm, Saturdays to 7pm and Sundays 11am to 5pm.
- Burberry Factory Store, 29-31 Chatham Place, Hackney, London E9 6LP. Monday to Saturday 10am to 6pm, Sunday 11am to 5pm.
This company is known for its country clothing, especially waxed and quilted jackets, worn for British country pursuits from hunting, shooting, fishing and hiking to gentleman farming and carpooling the kids to school in the Range Rover. At their factory store, in Jarrow, next door to their South Shields headquarters, in England's northeast, expect 50% or more off their clothing, accessories and footwear for men, women and children.
- Barbour Factory Outlet, Monks Way, Bede Trading Estate, Jarrow, NE32 3HL, open every day, Monday - Saturday 9:30am to 5:30pm, Sunday 10:30am to 4:30pm
Mulberry makes luxury leather products, expensive and high status handbags and other fashion goods. A Mulberry handbag at retail can easily set you back £700 or more. The company has several factory outlet stores but the best one is the original one, in Shepton Mallet, near their head office and their Somerset factories. The Shepton Mallet store is just up the road from one of the UK's better discount outlet malls, Kilver Court Designer Village. It's also very close Bath with its Roman baths, wonderful shopping and echoes of Jane Austen.
- Mulberry Factory Outlet, Old School House, Kilver Street, Somerset BA4 5NF, open every day, Monday - Saturday 9:30am to 5:30pm, Sunday 10am - 4pm.
Dents have been making luxury gloves and other leather goods since 1777. Their factory store, in Wiltshire, has a full range of lined and unlined leather gloves for men and women, driving gloves and shooting gloves, handbags, umbrellas, belts, hats and other accessories. The goods are discontinued lines or imperfect and are sold at about half high street prices.
While you're there, drop in to see their museum where you can find out about the history of glove making and see Coronation gloves worn by the current Queen as well as Tudor coronation gloves worn by Queen Elizabeth I, gloves worn by the doomed King Charles I, celebrity gloves, glove making tools and other items connected to this ancient industry.
- Dents Factory Shop, Furnax Lane, Warminster, Wiltshire BA12 8PE. Open 9am to 5pm, Monday - Saturday. Some items are also available online at their outlet website.