Must-see sites! Stores selling luxury goods

Updated: 2010-12-24 12:41

By Zhang Haizhou and Zhang Chunyan (China Daily European Weekly)

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Must-see sites! Stores selling luxury goods

Two Chinese shoppers walking in front of a Burberry Store at Bicester Village. Zhang Haizhou / China Daily 

Newly affluent head to remote UK village to hunt for branded bargains

Heavy rain, strong winds and severe snowfall - the adverse weather this winter does not seem to have stopped Chinese shoppers from heading to remote Bicester village in the United Kingdom to buy luxury goods.

"Here is the place to get good stuff at cheap prices. I decided to spend one day here to buy New Year gifts for my family," shopper Li Yaxing said.

Wearing a Boston University jumper, Li, who is in his early 30s and works in the United States, said he has not been home for more than three years. He was scheduled to go back home in Shandong province after wrapping up a business trip to London before Christmas.

"I'm not a big fan of shopping. But it's like an assignment as I have a big family to feed," he said.

"Besides my parents, I have four uncles and aunts. If I want to buy each of them a gift, I need to buy gifts for all of them. And they have sons and daughters it's an endless name list!"

He said he will spend at least 1,000 pounds (1,175 euros) at the Bicester, a collection of New England clapboard buildings blooming on an Oxfordshire field where fashion items are sold at marked-down prices.

Almost every designer has a shop there: Burberry, Paul Smith, Emernegildo Zegna, D&G, Gucci, Prada and many more.

As many sectors here in the UK and Europe are still feeling the pinch after the financial crisis, luxury goods have enjoyed a heady recovery. It seems the good news will continue into Christmas, with Chinese tourists and shoppers boosting sales.

Well-heeled Chinese consumers are attracted to Europe since luxury goods are more expensive at home.

Chinese tourists surpass Russians as the highest-spending non-European visitors to France, according to the Economist magazine, which quoted a survey of duty-free shops.

Bicester, with more than 130 shops, is a top Chinese tourist destination outside London. About 40 percent, as reported by local newspapers and travel agencies in 2009, are foreign tourists. A third now hail from China, 30 percent from the rest of Asia and 15 percent from the Middle East.

During this Christmas sale season, many shops have recruited Mandarin-speaking sales assistants temporarily, as many Chinese tourists do not speak any English.

Guo Kunzhang, director of London-based Jade Travel, said 90 percent of Chinese tourists now make half- or whole-day shopping trips there.

Handbags, watches, apparel and leather shoes are their favorites, he said, adding that Burberry, the British company known for its trenchcoats and iconic plaid, is a top pick.

"Chinese tourists are normally well-prepared with a bit of homework done before shopping," Guo said.

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