The truth about living 3 miles from Clarks Village Outlet Shopping
I happen to live very close to what is alleged to be the first ever UK Outlet Shopping venue, in Street, Somerset. Built on the site of the old Clarks shoe factory, it opened in 1993 and now is home to some 80+ different retailers – from Lindt (master chocolatier, no less) to Superdry (purveyors of slightly threadbare, unkempt clothing to discerning shoppers with wannabe six-packs). Being so near to such an esteemed shopping experience brings with it a few home truths and it is these that I thought I would share with you.
When you realise you can buy, for example, a pair of Musto navy cargo shorts reduced from £70 to £20, it turns you into a mean, parsimonious, penny-pinching tightwad who would never dream of spending more than £20 on a pair of said shorts again. Ever.
It helps on the choice front if your size is Small/Extra Small or Extra Large/Extra, Extra Large (and that you don’t mind buying last season’s trends).
When you go to a drinks or dinner party of a weekend, every single man there is wearing the same shirt or a subtle variation of – typically from White Stuff or Crew Clothing. At the moment it is bold, bright floral patterns or similar. So if you don’t want to stand out from the crowd, it’s the best place to shop and the best drinks party to be.
If you need to buy a pair of shoes, you are really, really hard pushed to get beyond anything other than a pair of Clarks. Yay, desert boots I hear you shout, but sadly these are never on the shop floor, unless you have size 5 or 6 feet. And even then they are the ones reduced by the least amount. Plus, why would you spend £45 on a pair of shoes, when you can buy a pair for £25 (and get another thrown in for free)? (See the first point (above) about cargo shorts.)
When your daughter is in her early teens, you can stock up on jewellery as presents for her friends with items that started life at, say, £40 but are now for sale at £5. But when gift time comes around, you feel guilty about giving a present that only cost such a small amount, so a mad panic ensues as you scour the meagre offerings of other shops to supplement the original gift. This is usually a fruitless challenge.
Another truth is that you can pretty much guarantee that every kitchen cupboard in the area will be stuffed full of perfectly matching pots and pans – be that high end (Le Creuset) or something more affordable (Kitchen Pro). Plus, an extensive range of small gadgets that serve one purpose only, seemed like a good idea at the time of purchase and only got used once.
If you are about to go on holiday and need a new suitcase, you’re in the right place and they are so cheap that if they are torn to shreds by baggage handling by your return you can easily absorb it as part of the cost of your holiday. A similar, but different, example is hiking boots or walking shoes. £30 seems like a bally bargain for a pair of boots but actually they’re only good for a couple of decent walks (if that) and the alleged water proofing sails close to the wind in terms of the Trades Description Act.
You get to know the shop layout and likely stock choice so well that you can cram an entire morning’s clothes shopping into less than an hour, possibly even 30 minutes if you know what it is you are looking for. This is a blessed relief to those with a genuine allergic reaction to shopping – my son being a prime example of an extreme sufferer.
You get into the habit of buying, for example, 6 suits (at less than £80 each) of subtly different shades, fabric, style and/or size, with the certain knowledge that every single one will be returned 4 days later.
Having said all of the above – with intentional light heartedness and distortion of reality – Clarks can be a great place to shop if you accept its shortcomings; have realistic expectations; know what you are looking for but are open-minded too; experience a bit of Lady Luck; and don’t mind being disappointed! Many a friend or relation has hit Clarks Village with a vengeance and come back with bags full of stuff they are very happy with. So, what do I know?