Regional retail therapy

Date Posted: 31/03/2011

A countrywide coverage of designer outlets and shopping centres, for all your group's retail therapy needs.

Northern soul

Why not start at one of the European Capitals of Culture, Liverpool? Liverpool ONE offers groups a varied shopping experience, from bars to boutiques, handbags to home ware, and restaurants to room service. The shops are laid out in fashion and shopping districts, to allow you to navigate your way around, whether it is down Peter's Lane for the high-end fashion labels such as Ted Baker and Whistles or to Wall Street for HMV and the Virgin Media store.

Also situated in Liverpool at the heart of the buzzing Cavern Quarter, on Mathew Street, are the Cavern Walks. The walks are described as Liverpool's only boutique emporium, and are home to the city's largest collection of independent retailers and designer brands, including Vivienne Westwood and Cricket. There are two food outlets; the coffee shop Lucy in the Sky is built on the original location of the Cavern Club stage.

From the banks of the Mersey to Manchester, The Trafford Centre describes itself as one of the best group travel destinations in the UK - and it certainly has proved itself, winning the Group Leisure award for best shopping venue over the last three years.

The centre is rich with department stores, and boasts a Selfridges, a flagship John Lewis, a four-level Marks and Spencer, and a Debenhams, and offers a large mix of entertainment, dining and leisure alongside the shops.

Groups that arrive by pre-booked coaches are met in the coach park by The Trafford Centre's own 'meeters and greeters'; guides who give visitors a brief introduction to the centre and its facilities. Coach party visitors and coach drivers can also take advantage of a special voucher booklet offering savings in a variety of the centre's stores and restaurants.

Also in Manchester is the Lowry Outlet Mall, located in the heart of the The Quays, Greater Manchester's waterfront destination. Take advantage of the Lowry Outlet Mall's Special Group Days; offering a classic film at the on-site Vue cinema, lunch, a tea dance with Greg Francis and his live band and a free prize draw - all for £10 per person (or £8 per person if you book up to two weeks in advance).

The mall offers savings of up to 60 per cent off big-name retailers including Marks and Spencer, Molton Brown, Whittard of Chelsea, Windsmoor and a new Gap outlet. All pre-booked groups will receive a £10 gift card for the travel organiser and the coach driver, and a discount voucher booklet for every member of the party.

Over towards Leeds is The Mill, Batley a shopping outlet that offers favourite brands under oneroof, at permanently discounted prices throughout the majority of its stores. Brands include Planet, Jacques Vert, Radley and Moss, and an extensive range of sports and outdoor shops.

All group visitors receive a discount voucher sheet which offers a further ten per cent off at many shops throughout the store. The Mill also offers 20 per cent off for groups at all of its four restaurants. Coach drivers and group organiser also benefit from £15 in cash payout and a meal voucher valued at £5.

The Mill has dedicated coach parking and a Meet & Greet service courtesy of its Customer Liaison Team, which will meet all pre-booked coaches, even with just an hour's warning, to hand out store guides and discount sheets, point out the facilities and generally offer a helping hand.

Dalton Park near Newcastle has over 60 outlets selling over 200 brands at up to 50 per cent off high street prices, alongside 55 acres of parkland. It's also a short drive away from the region's top attractions including Alnwick Gardens, Beamish Museum and Durham Heritage Coast. 

Major high street names include a Marks and Spencer Outlet and Next Clearance, plus there's a wealth of top 'up to the minute' fashion on sale at Joseph, Radley and the Gap Outlet. Groups can claim up to 50 per cent off of stylish furniture and homeware, from a selection of brands.

Take advantage of Dalton Park's special Group Travel Club and qualify for extra special benefits and bonuses. Pre-book your coach party and the park will organise a welcoming service complete with free tea and coffee, and exclusive offers and extra discounts at selected retailers for all passengers. Coach drivers will also receive a £10 voucher to spend.

If it's a bargain you're after, then Boundary Mill's flagship store, situated at the end of the M65 at Colne, offers quality branded goods at up to 75 per cent off the recommended retail price. On arrival, your group will be welcomed by one of Boundary Mill's coach co-ordinators, who aim to provide you with any guidance and assistance required during your visit. The stores also feature good value catering outlets that can comfortably accommodate groups.

Boundary Mill promises your coach driver £10 cash and a £10 voucher for the group organiser, if the coach is carrying 25 passengers and stays for a minimum of two hours. There is plenty of free parking for coaches at all its stores, and other stores are based across the country at Grantham, Shiremoor and Walsall. Why not combine a shopping trip with a trip to a local beauty spot or stately home? Boundary Mill introduced its inclusive tours two years ago, and has now announced new tours at all stores, including local markets, gardens, stately homes, local countryside, in addition to river and canal cruises.

Further south is Peak Village Outlet Shopping Centre in the heart of Derbyshire, just two miles from Chatsworth House, amidst the rolling hills of the Peak District National Park. Visitors can enjoy up to 30 per cent off on a range of high street brand names from retailers such as Exsports, Yeomans Outdoors, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Pavers Shoes, and more.

Parking is free for coaches and Massarella's coffee shop and restaurant offers a hot buffet as well as a good range of lighter bites, hot and cold beverages, cakes and pastries, and is happy to host group events, such as bingo and tea dances. Coach drivers will receive a £6 meal voucher and £10 shopping voucher when checking their group.

Due south

Down in the south there's no shortage of great places for groups to shop. One of the most well known of outlet stores, with an unusually large variety of high-fashion and designer shops, is Bicester Village in Oxfordshire.

Bicester Village is now offering its customers the chance to book a getaway incorporating a shopping trip to Bicester Village with a visit to some of the region's attractions such as Blenheim Palace and Waddesdon Manor. The packages are aimed at groups and include accommodation and free or discounted entry into a nearby attraction as well as additional savings. Prices of the packages start from £45.

A bit of retail therapy is a must in every London itinerary and the capital continues to offer up more options for visitors looking for that perfect bargain.

Head to Covent Garden from spring, as a number of high-end fashion retailers such as Rugby by Ralph Lauren and Burberry set up home in the famous market square. Follow with an alfresco lunch at nearby St Martin's Courtyard, a new shopping and dining destination full of independent labels, flagship stores and restaurants.

Find some bargains in the shadow of St Paul's Cathedral at One New Change, a new shopping centre with 60 shops over three floors. Groups will find high street favorites including Topshop, Reiss, Superdry and Kurt Geiger as well as a range of eating options.

For serious shoppers, Westfield Stratford City will open to the public in September, bringing Europe's largest urban shopping centre to the east of the capital, following the opening of Westfield London in 2008

The McArthurGlen Ashford Designer Outlet, adjacent to the Ashford International Eurostar Terminal, is under five minutes drive from the town centre and is easily accessible for groups.

The outlet offers designer fashion, beauty and homewares, at discounts of up to 60 per cent off the recommended retail price. Leading designer brands at the centre include: Polo Ralph Lauren, Bose and Tommy Hilfiger as well as Marks and Spencer, Next, Ted Baker and Gap.

Add sea, marinas and castles to your shopping experience at the De Bradelei Wharf shopping centre in Dover. De Bradelei Wharf sits just off Dover's attractive seafront in a charming marina setting. The shop lines the whole length of Cambridge Road, and is all under one roof and across one level, for easy shopping, and a large selection of big name brands to choose from.

Coaches are welcome and the centre offers incentives and special discounts to group organisers who wish to book a visit. A large coach parking area is available and offers easy pick-up and drop-off points right outside the store.

Just a few minutes from the Historic Dockyard and Old Portsmouth, Gunwharf Quays brings old and new together where visitors can shop along the pedestrian avenues at more than 85 designer outlets, eat at one of 20 plus cosmopolitan bars and restaurants, or be entertained at the 14-screen cinema. The Quays host a number of culturally themed events throughout the year, including Chinese New Year.

Eastern promise

With its large pedestrian areas and bustling lanes, its quirky independent shops, six day open-air market and spacious modern shopping malls, Norwich is a great shopping destination for groups. The city's 'high street' includes St Stephen's and pedestrianised thoroughfares like Gentleman's Walk and London Street. The art nouveau Royal Arcade was built in 1899 and today is home to a number of independent shops including Colman's Mustard Shop & Museum. The Mall Norwich and Chapelfield shopping centres have over 150 stores between them.

Explore cobbled streets and narrow alleys, lined with beautiful historic buildings, and packed full of small, independent and creative shops in the Norwich Lanes area of the city. Coach drivers can drop off and pick up their passengers at various locations across the city at designated points, and coach parking is detailed on the website.

Nearby Wroxham Barns in Norfolk is open all year round, and has free coach parking. All telephone confirmed group bookings receive a refreshment voucher for the group organiser and for the coach driver.

Groups can meet craftsmen and artists working in their craft studios, including stained-glass items, hand-thrown pottery, large and small sculptures, Norfolk sketches and hand-made jewellery. Head for The Gallery for ladies fashions, accessories, jewellery, menswear and inspiring gifts for all ages, along with the Fudge Shop bursting with naughty treats. Wroxham also has its own art gallery, exhibiting paintings and illustrations of Norfolk.

Clacton Factory Outlet features a range of individual stores with hundreds of famous named brands in fashion, footwear, homewares, jewellery, books, tents/outdoor equipment, confectionery and more at discounts of up to 60 per cent off high street prices and is fully compliant with the disability discrimination act. There is free parking for cars and coaches, an Information Centre offering free wheelchair loan, a children's outdoor play area, baby changing facilities and feeding areas. 

A pre-booked party of ten or more people entitles the driver or organiser to gift vouchers, which can be spent at any store at the Outlet. This also includes a refreshment voucher.  All passengers will receive a Day Premier Card which offers further discounts.

Over in Lincolnshire, Spalding's Springfields Outlet Shopping has over 55 outlet stores, including Gap, Marks and Spencer and Clarks. On-site facilities for coach drivers who book include a new coach drivers' restroom, with seating, tea and coffee, TV, shower and toilet. The centre also has a dedicated coach drop-off point as well as secure coach parking. Further driver incentives include a £10 gift card for the outlet, alongside a £10 food and drink voucher for the restaurant, the tavern or a free drink and pastry at Costa Coffee.

At the Boundary Mill store in Grantham it offers coach companies and organisers the opportunity to combine a visit to the stores with a guided tour of some of the local attractions.

For example, the Belton House Tour is £12.50 per head, and includes lunch at the Downtown Coffee shop, as well as the morning to browse top name brands stores, with up to 75 per cent off.  Groups must consist of a minimum of 20 people to qualify for this offer. Further itineraries are suggested on the Boundary Mill website.

Westward ho!

Down in the West Country, Falmouth has an abundance of shopping options ranging from well-known retail outlets through to quirky arts and crafts stores, fashion boutiques, surf shops, delicatessens and antique dealers, This is a shopping experience that is blessed with views of the surrounding Fal estuary and Carrick Roads waterways.

The main shopping area has pedestrianised cobbled walkways and narrow alleyways backing onto the harbourside. Parking areas are found at both ends of the town and there is also a 'park and float' option during the summer months that takes advantage of the river links to deliver visitors into the centre.

As the largest city in the south west, Bristol offers a vibrant city centre shopping area making it a great destination for a short break or day shopping trip for groups.

Bristol's city centre shopping area includes nearly 500 stores, two separate covered shopping centres, more than 50 cafes and restaurants, and ample parking. The city centre shopping area includes Cabot Circus, The Galleries and a further 300 stores in the surrounding area. Cabot Circus lies underneath a striking glass roof, offering urban fashion brands and high street retailers. Quakers Friars is part of Cabot Circus and features a stylish piazza set against the historic backdrop of a 13th century Dominican Friary building. The area is home to the only Harvey Nichols store in the south west.

Linking to Cabot Circus, the shopping area continues on to the high street, where a further 300 stores are located including Marks and Spencer, Debenhams and the UK's second largest Primark store. With a range of places to eat and drink, the pedestrianised streets offer a combination of environments in which to shop, or open spaces in which to watch the world go by. Also located within the city centre shopping area  is The Galleries, an attractive, three-storey shopping centre - home to a further 100 stores including a host of independent retailers. 

Why not try south Wales as a group shopping destination? At the heart of the region is the capital city, Cardiff which boasts brand new shopping centres and historic arcades alongside major attractions such as Cardiff Castle, the Millennium Stadium and the National Museum. 

To the north of Cardiff, in the southern Wales valleys is the Festival Park Branded Shopping Outlet and over in the traditional seaside resort of Porthcawl is the Bridgend Designer Shopping Outlet where there are over 90 well known shops selling goods at discount prices. 

Gloucester Quays Designer Outlet comprises a mix of listed buildings complemented with contemporary malls. There are over 50 stores offering permanent discounts all year round plus coffee shops and restaurants, and a large antiques centre. The outlet is within easy reach of Bristol and the M5 corridor and group travel visitors who pre-book benefit from a meet and greet service, explaining facilities and attractions. There is also free coach parking both on site and close by.

Each party member will receive a discount booklet containing discount offers for most stores as well as offers for the National Waterway Museum, Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum and Slimbridge Wetlands Centre. There is also a complimentary meal and drink for the driver at either Pizza Express or Nandos.

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