Even if you're not normally a fan of outlet shopping, the villagey feel and great designer bargains at Woodbury Common, near New York, could make a convert of you
Personally, I am not usually a shopping outlet kind of girl. I don’t easily warm to indoor, highly organised churches to consumerism, I hate the industrial-estate feel of retail parks, and I am not even that keen on a high street, preferring to nip in and out of stores I definitely know I want to go to and then get out of there. I love clothes but I don’t like the frenzy some people seem to work themselves into over shopping.
What I do like are old town streets, cobbles and individual little shops to wander round, with a good healthy dose of cafes, bars or restaurants to take refuge in. Think Covent Garden in London or North Laine in Brighton. I do love clothes (did I mention that already?). And shoes and bags. But not to the extent that I would rank shopping over holidays or lovely food or friends or wine.
New York, the self-proclaimed world capital of retail, incorporates all I love about a city and when it comes to shopping, I can happily wander around town, ogling designer dresses I can’t afford and taking advantage of some great value brands, both chain and independent, which somehow manage to keep a unique New York vibe.
However, in retrospect it probably wasn’t a great idea to head over to New York for a long weekend of shopping right now. With the power of the pound now reduced to a pittance, I was somewhat kidding myself if I thought I was going to be getting any bargains. I have already been fleeced for drinks - my mediocre glass of red wine cost around £7 and that was before factoring in the dollar tip for each drink in every round, which for myself and friends adds up to a almost a four quid tip every time. A trawl around the, albeit gorgeous, boutiques of Broadway and Spring Street has revealed some eye-watering prices. I am sorely disappointed, as my wardrobe has been seriously neglected over the winter and, just as I was starting to feel all spring-like and wanting to emulate (on a budget) a few new-season fashions, a trip to everyone’s favourite shopping destination seemed ideal.
Which is why I found myself on a shuttle bus, heading into the Hudson Valley, in search of what is meant to be one of America’s best shopping outlets, at Woodbury Common (www.premiumoutlets.com). The Chelsea Premium Outlets chain has ‘shopping villages’ all over the States and this one has more designer labels than any other. Jimmy Choo, Diane Von Furstenberg, Chanel, Gucci, Prada and more affordable brands such as Converse and American Apparel are all here. And, surprisingly, it is incredibly good value.
Woodbury Common has done its best to reproduce a village feel and I am even more surprised to find I don’t hate the place. Shopping is done outside, with low-rise wooden chalets clustered around gardens and benches and walkways. Best of all, though, are the prices. Even with exchange rates that fall way shy of the two dollars to the pound we were getting this time last year, this place offers some serious bargains. A Longchamp leather bag, which is around the £3,000 mark in the UK, is about $1,500 here. Iconic Diane Von Furstenburg wrap dresses are less than $150. Even better, when I registered for the ‘VIP Club’ (which anyone can do) on the website, I was sent a thick wad of further discount vouchers.
Wardrobe staples such as Timberland boots and Converse trainers are less than half the price they would be back home. I don’t actually own many things with a designer tag but I am beginning to think that it might be the ideal time to take advantage of cost-cutting initiatives and invest in those ‘key’ or ‘timeless’ high-end labels that the magazines are always telling us we must have.
With the pleasant villagey design, there’s none of that treadmill shopping vibe here, and I made sure I took regular breaks in the food hall, with the Positano Grill being the perfect place for a rather swish lunch. There are also several outdoor cafes in which to momentarily recuperate.
Chelsea Premium Outlets are all over the States and I feel sorry I haven’t found them before now. With over 40 outlets stretching from the Hudson to Honolulu they could keep me busy for a while...
Getting to Woodbury Common Premium Outlets
Shortline Buses run frequent buses to Woodbury Common from Port Authority in New York City. Discounted tickets are often available on the website (www.coachusa.com).
Where to stay
Near Woodbury Common
The Holiday Inn - it's a good idea to stay near the outlet; you’ll need more than one day to get around. The hotel also offers shuttles to the outlet nearby.
In New York
Casablanca – one of New York’s most charming boutique hotels.
Flatotel – spacious rooms, funky design, lovely outdoor cafe.