Everyone loves a good deal. There is a radical statement. Here’s another one: no one likes to feel ripped off. Especially when you get ripped off by something claiming to be a good deal. It’s the convoluted logic that informs Channel 4’s Dispatches, âSecrets of the Discount Stores,â (airing Monday night, December 9) which aims to decipher the discount offers touted by TK Maxx discount merchants and outlets. like Bicester Village. . Uncheck and, for all intents and purposes, deflate.
Of course, you have to deflate them a bit. “Always up to 60% less than the RRP â, is a claim that TK Maxx trumpets on its website. “Always up to” is fishy, âânon-binding verbiage. This does not guarantee anything. The dispatches state, however, depends on the MSRP rather than the discount. Namely, that TK Maxx make the clothes themselves and invent said retail prices; or in cahoots with certain designer brands to make lines at low prices.
To be frank, TK Maxx’s claims have always seemed wrong, like the claim that by working directly with designer brands they can offer the current season at half price. How can a retailer really offer a designer brand at 50% off, when everyone – including the brand’s stores – is selling them at full blast? The simple answer is: they can’t. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Once you’re inside a TK Maxx, you realize it’s not a sartorial Garden of Eden filled with temptations at a discount for the same season. Many of TK Maxx’s products, in my relatively educated opinion, are tat. They are poorly made of poor quality fabrics. But this is the case in many shops on the high street.
What TK Maxx can offer is the occasional gem. In the fashion industry, everyone has a story: the Azzedine AlaÃ¯a belt went from Â£ 700 to Â£ 80; the Lanvin coat reduced from Â£ 3,000 to Â£ 500; the Christopher Kane three-figure dress at Â£ 250. Apocryphal? No – because I saw it all myself. I have heard stories from many others. I actually bought the Lanvin coat. The reason it was so cheap? He had four seasons at the time.
Here’s the catch: Don’t step into TK Maxx while waiting for this season’s Saint Laurent for Â£ 4.50. The same is true for Bicester Village. The factory outlet phenomenon began when designer brands realized that no matter what the season, their products always had a market – and value. Think of them as an extended sale, augmented by an influx of products from elsewhere in the world.
There are a few malls in the United States that have ranges specially created for them – the designer brands I have contacted are present in Bicester, as well as representatives of the Outlet Village itself, deny that this is the case there. The shopping experience is also profoundly different. TK Maxx is a free game for everyone, scrambling up and down, the implication being that the bargains await. Bicester is more civilized – the shops are decorated like their full-priced counterparts, albeit hung up on discounted merchandise from last season. The trap ? This experience means that clothes usually cost a bit more. TK Maxx can often look like a clearance sale. And, like a clearance sale, you could walk away with a treasure or get ripped off with garbage.
Fashion, at the end of the day, is a business. A company worth Â£ 21 billion in the UK alone. The mistake here is to expect a free or easy ride. If a retailer is selling a dress for a great deal, no matter what the price, rest assured that they are going to make money somewhere and somehow. This is, after all, the essential.