COVID-19: Bicester Village ‘having a tough time’

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    On a rainy weekday morning, the luxury shopping outlet Bicester Village feels deserted.

    While February is typically a quiet time for the Oxfordshire retail village, staff the BBC spoke to said visitor numbers were much lower than usual.

    Cut-price handbags and coats draw thousands of Chinese tourists to the retail outlet each year.

    But the number of those diagnosed with coronavirus in China has spiked, and this has taken its toll on popular tourist destinations.

    ‘Tough times for retailers’

    Eager shoppers, many of them from Asia and the Middle East, wear face masks and apply hand sanitiser on the Thursday morning train.

    Mixed in with commuters, some snack on pastries and carry Oxford Street-branded tote bags.

    But fashion buyer Xia Yae says she has noticed a “lot less people” travelling to the retail village in the last two weeks.

    Purchasing designer items for South Korean clients from brands including Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Burberry, Xia says that Bicester retailers are having a “tough time”

    “Usually, fashion buyers would be restricted on how many discounted items they can buy. But now, they’re allowed to buy as many as they want – the retailers clearly need to make more money,” she adds.

    More than seven million people visited Bicester Village in 2019, according to its owner Value Retail. It was established in 1995 by American Scott Malkin, and reported sales of £259m in 2018.

    The Hwang family are visiting Bicester as part of their week-long holiday to London.

    More at BBC News

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