A U.K.-based company that creates luxury shopping destinations dressed as fake villages is expected to work on its first U.S. location starting next year.
Bicester Village, which currently operates 11 such villages in Europe and China, claims to be nearly as popular as the Buckingham Palace among Chinese tourists.
In 1995, the company established its first village in the outskirts of an Oxfordshire town called Bicester, a 45-minute train ride away from London.
Since then, the kilometer-long (0.6 miles) shopping destination has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in England, having more than 6.3 million customers a year.
Of those numbers, Chinese tourists make up the bulk of the figure.
“One million tourists come to the U.K. from China and spend lots of money here, and 100% of Chinese travelers come to Bicester Village,” Minister Xu Jin of the Chinese Embassy said in 2018, Time noted.
Interestingly, the shopping destinations do not all look like English villages, as each location is created to be “unique in its unprecedented brand mix, beautiful settings, cultural richness, and remarkable service and savings.”
Scott Malkin, chairman of Value Retail, Bicester Village’s parent company, told Business of Fashion that the company’s first U.S. location will be in New York.
“Next stop will be New York. It’s just in the formative stages and it should start in the next year or so,” Malkin said. “We have this vision of a global footprint serving global brands.”
Bicester Village offers a wide selection of designer brands, including Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Burberry, Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Givenchy, Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Michael Kors, Polo Ralph Lauren, Prada, Saint Laurent, Swarovski, TAG Heuer, and Versace, to name a few.
The company, which promotes its locations as luxury destinations — rather than outlet malls — takes royalties from the brand’s sales instead of charging rent.
“We have the freedom to invest back into our villages and that allows us to reinvent every single one of them in a very curated experience,” Value Retail Chief Merchant Desirée Bollier told Business of Fashion. “And that reinvention — I didn’t see that in New York.”
Bollier explained that the city has a lack of investment into “memorable experiences,” citing Barneys as an example.
“Clearly, they have taken the customer for granted and you can’t, you have to reinvent the experience. It can’t remain stale. It has to be a theatre,” she added.