Photo by Melanie Aronson
You know what January in Barcelona means: first Kings’ Day, swiftly followed by the start of oft-repeated shudders of horror at the thought of no public holidays until Easter (although there is respite this year with a random day off on March 7th), and the winter sales.
The latter are tinged with the bitter-sweet knowledge that you bought all your seasonal presents just moments before their prices were slashed (this is less true here if you celebrate Christmas rather than Kings’ Day, but whether it’s a day or a fortnight later, the sight of carefully-chosen gifts at 50 percent off always hurts), but still, who can resist a bargain? Sadly, the sales here are officially limited to two fixed periods a year, not nearly enough for the committed ganga-hunter. But then there’s always the outlets.
For anyone not familiar with the concept, outlets are places where unsold stock from past seasons and/or current season stock (that may have a flaw barely visible to the human eye, but which quality control has decided can’t be sold via the normal route), is put on sale at reduced prices. These discounts can range from 30 to 60 or 70 percent, making your money go that bit further than in a normal shop. As with the sales, there is no guarantee of finding your size or goods in the colour you want; furthermore, you won’t necessarily find the latest trends or exactly what you’re looking for if you need, say, an outfit for a special occasion. On the plus side, we all need to help the country spend its way out of the current dire economic situation, but it’s not so easy to do that at full price (thanks, paradoxically to the current dire economic situation affecting us all). So really, outlet shopping is a must if Spain is to avoid an EU bailout. Let the spending begin.
LA ROCA VILLAGE
The largest ‘local’ selection of outlet shops can be found at La Roca Village, about half an hour’s drive outside Barcelona on the motorway towards Girona and France. With over 100 different stores offering goods at up to 60 percent off, there are discounts available for practically every occasion and style. From high-range options such as Burberry, Versace and Hugo Boss to more accessible brands including Pepe Jeans, Miss Sixty and Kipling. As well as kids’ shop Imaginarium, the self-explanatory Chocolat Factory, beauty emporium L’Occitane and, count ‘em, three Diesel stores; exhausting your credit card should be an easy task here. As the name would suggest, La Roca is essentially an outdoor experience, with each brand located in a different ‘house’ in the ‘village’, so don’t plan to go there on a rainy Saturday afternoon. For those without their own transportation, there is a special bus service running from Plaça Catalunya (bus stop 1210) three times a day (leaving at 10am, 4pm and 6pm, returning at 3pm, 5pm and 9pm; €12 return for adults).
Within Barcelona, Heron City offers an outlet shopping centre experience, albeit one on a much smaller scale than La Roca. Fourteen stores (including, yes, Diesel) make up the selection here, which is located close to Avinguda Meridiana on the eastern side of the city. As well as the ubiquitous Italian jean shop, there is Mango and Desigual, and a selection of Inditex-owned shops, specifically Bershka, Lefties and Pull & Bear.
On this Eixample street, between Gran Via and Casp, there is a convenient collection of discount stores set up in an apparent attempt at creating a mini outlet ‘village’ in the heart of Barcelona. It’s a mix of shops selling one brand only (viz. Nice Things and upmarket women’s clothes shops Javier Simorra and Etxart & Panno), and others that sell collections of (lesser-known) brands, such as DKT and Focha. It has to be said that this area gears more towards the female shopper, although men should take note that there’s a Mango with a selection from its new-ish HE range, while Montana, Sabbath Jeans and La Sabateria have apparel and footwear for both.
Barcelona is a place that, despite (or perhaps because of) its size, has retained a good number of one-off, neighbourhood businesses that work hard to compete with the all-too-familiar high street chains found throughout the city. And when it comes to outlets, your neighbourhood is almost bound to have its local specialities, giving you an alternative to all those Diesels and Mangos. If you’re not necessarily interested in the big-name labels but simply want affordable clothing and goods, it’s worth seeking out these shops and checking their ranges. (Apparently there is no translation for ‘outlet’ into either Catalan or Castilian, so spotting these places around Barcelona is pretty easy). You’ll find, for instance, maternity clothes at Belly (Avinguda Diagonal 379), childrenswear at Sniff (Travessera de Les Corts 220) and sports equipment at the Outlet d’Esports (Berlin 24).
Before you head off to outlet shop til you drop, Elisabet Olivé, of the personal shopping and image consultancy Qué Me Pongo, has a few words of advice about what to buy:
- Choose pieces and accessories that suit you and focus on your strong points while also minimising those features you’re not so keen on.
- Make sure you buy the right size. Forget about buying items that are the wrong size simply because they’re cheap.
- Select clothes that help you project the image that you want to give, whether it be serious and distant, or jovial and approachable. Don’t buy things that you already know doesn’t suit you.
- Avoid separates that will be difficult to combine with what’s already in your wardrobe.
- Invest in: basic articles that are very versatile and can be combined with many other clothes; seasonless clothes that you can put on throughout the year and give a lot of wear; classic pieces that don’t go out of fashion—these are the ones that you should spend most on because of their durability. Finally, outlets are a good place to buy one or two items that are currently in fashion to give your look colour and a more ‘with it’ image.