After a week in the City of Love, I’m back home in sunny Miami ready to report on all that I saw and did – specifically, La Vallée Village.
Those of you may recall that I’ve written extensively about designer outlet shopping in Florence, Italy. (Here’s a refresher.) Though there are mixed reviews online (as with anything these days), I’ve always had above average experiences. Last year, I found a Valentino Rockstud Tote for $1,200. (In the U.S., the bag retails for around $2,400.)
Before traveling to Paris, I did some research on similar outlet-style malls nearby. What I found was a place called La Vallée Village. Unlike the outlets I visited in Florence, this mall is part of Bicester Village Shopping Collection, a larger conglomerate of outlet stores across Europe and China. Initially this worried me, as I feared the discounts would be mediocre and the stock would be sparse. Unfortunately, my research didn’t provide much comfort either, as many reviewers claimed the prices on small leather goods and accessories to be disappointing and very similar to what one may find at a U.S. outlet mall.
Nonetheless, my boyfriend and I still decided to make the trip outside of the city to visit the Village. We had the time built into our schedule, so we didn’t feel like we were missing out, even if the outlets proved to be a wash.
For orientation purposes, the Village is about an hour from the center of the city (near the Louvre), located pretty close to Paris’ Disneyland. There are busses to and from the shops organized by the Village, as well as subway access, taxis, Ubers, and bus tours. The cheapest way to reach the Village is via subway, though my boyfriend and I opted for a coach bus organized by a tour company. (It was about 30 euros per person, which is less than a one-way Uber.)
When we arrived, we found a fairytale-like, European-inspired village in which quaint, house-like buildings doubled as storefronts for designers including Gucci, Prada, and Balenciaga. It was quite a sight. What we soon realized was how large the Village is, made up of more than 120 boutiques from French and international designers. According to the Village’s website, we anticipated to find at least 33 percent off previous seasons’ collections – all year round. We were skeptical at first, especially after what we had read online. However, once we entered a couple stores, we realized it was in fact true.
In total, we managed to spend about five hours perusing the stores, many of which were easy to access. Gucci had an unbelievably long line (no surprise), so my boyfriend and I decided to pass and visit other boutiques like Salvatore Ferragamo, Bottega Veneta, Chloé, and Loewe. (I’m not one for waiting in line to get into a designer store.)
Though not every store offered the most incredible discounts, the Village overall offers enough to make it worthwhile to visit. I bought two pairs of Prada boots, retailing about 700 each in the U.S., for less than 300 Euros each. Given the exchange rate is pretty favorable to the dollar at the moment, the boots were essentially buy one, get one free.
Keep in mind: Whether you shop in Europe – at the Village or beyond – there’s always the VAT tax refund to take into consideration. (You’ll need your passport on-hand to receive the tax refund paperwork while shopping.) Of course, there’s a chance you’ll have to pay taxes when you enter the U.S. (You must claim your purchases at the airport.) Regardless, you’ll end up with a stellar deal – especially if you were considering buying the same or a very similar product in the U.S.
Looking back, I’m not sure why there are so many negative reviews online about the Village. Maybe it’s because shoppers expect 70 to 80 percent off of the goods, though that is highly unlikely no matter where you shop. I know there’s also the issue of whether or not what’s found at the outlets is unique or simply a cheaper, made-for-the-outlet version of what one would find in a “real boutique.”
Take it for what it’s worth, but before I purchased anything at the Village, I conducted a quick Google search to see if I could find the same product online via the designers’ website. With everything I chose, I found the equivalent online. I know that can’t always be said, but it’s worth noting there is more to these outlets than simply less-expensive, knock-off-style versions of the real thing.
If you find yourself in Paris, or in any city where one of these outlets exists, I would definitely recommend a visit (if you have the time and it doesn’t interfere with sightseeing, family time, etc.). Why not see if you can hunt down a discounted version of the designer item you’re lusting after before spending $1,000 or, likely, more? A deal is a deal!