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I’m not really a shopping fan, These days I find the whole experience a bit traumatic if I was being honest. Rude people everywhere you look, pushed from pillar to post, robbed right, left and centre from the car park fees to the overpriced so-called ‘bargains’ themselves. This is why (and I guess others if you believe newspaper reports) I do a lot of my shopping on the internet. However I must admit that I make exceptions wherever real bargains can be had, one such exception is Clark’s Village in Somerset. This place has a whole abundance of genuine bargains and even though on the occasions I have visited, I have spent quite a lot of money, I have been mightily pleased with the savings I have made too. Here’s a little more about Clark’s Village and how it came to start in the first place ;
Clark’s Village is located in Street, a little town in Somerset. Close by Street is Glastonbury famous for its Tor and connections with King Arthur. It is easily reached by road and rail, the main connecting A road is the A39 and the closest motorway junction is J23 off the M5. The West Country isn’t that well blessed with road links compared to more developed areas and as a result, peak times can be an absolute nightmare. My personal recommendation is to visit early as the shops are opening, you are far more likely to get a car parking space avoid the hourdes and nick the best deals. It is signposted by way of the ‘brown attraction signs’ and is very hard to miss seeing that the village is quite small yet Clark’s Village is a large retail development. Other places close by which are worth a visit are Wells and it’s beautiful cathedral, Cheddar Gorge with it’s famous caves, Longleat and it’s safari park and stately home and last but not least Bath with it’s quaint regency architecture. If your not from the West Country, it is a particularly beautiful part of the country and you could incorporate your visit to Clark’s Village with another attraction.
Clark’s Village started out as a factory shop for Clark’s (the U.K’s biggest shoe company). The manufacturing buildings in Street became redundant and the bosses thought the idea would make the buildings into a profitable side business alongside it’s High Street shops. This idea was copied on the American outlet centre’s which were prevalent and hugely popular at the time. The factory shop was launched in 1993 and was quickly expanded as other companies too became wise to the idea and came on board. This was the first outlet centre in the U.K, forty now exist with a further forty on the architect’s books. The idea was to sell off previous seasons stock, end of line products, cancelled orders, quality seconds and discontinued lines at knock down prices in a retail environment to the general public. Previously items like this were sold in store, took up much need space and accounted for big debit figures on the balance sheets. The outlet stores had low overheads and paid no attention to detail with the ethos ‘stack em high, sell em quick’ being used. Not much has changed today but the retailers and the public both gain from the initial idea which has proved a huge success.
Mon – Sat 9a.m – 6p.m Sun 10 a.m – 5 p.m Thurs late night closing 8 p.m
Arriving at Clark’s Village you will straight away see the original factory buildings, alongside these lie the vast car parks. Spaces are plentiful but like I said earlier it is best to arrive early at peak times to avoid trawling around looking for a space, you could well have a five minute walk to the entrance if not.
So onto the outlets themselves, at last count there were 80 dedicated units of varying sizes. The design is modern in the architectural style of an American Mall only it’s an outdoor experience instead of indoors. The outlets have been constructed in lines facing one another (as in high streets), with other lines going off in horizontal and vertical directions (very American grid referenced style), very easy to get around and very compact but in my view lacking in character (a common cultural difference). The paved walkways between shop facings are covered by sloping roofs so you can avoid the weather. An attempt has been made to add character by using landscaped gardens, hanging baskets and countless shrubs and plant pot decorations.
The biggest outlet is the Clark’s store (naturally) which is also the busiest. They do a wide array of footwear for all ages and styles and massive savings can be had, up to 80% shop R.R.P can be found. If you need some work shoes, children’s shoes, hiking boots or smart going out shoes it can all be found under one roof. Other big outlets are Mark’s and Spencer’s and Next who predominately are selling off their end of season clothing ranges. Other ones I would recommend are Black and Decker for cut price electric tools (useful for male relatives Xmas presents), The Body Shop who have endless amounts of end of line stock ranging from as little as 50p (I had some vanilla and cola flavoured bubble bath which were great fun), The Professional Cookware Company which have top brand pots and pans with big savings and a Royal Worcester homeware’s outlet who have some designer crockery and kitchen items with some amazing discounts.
Other outlets include ;
Pilot/ Benetton/ Suits You/ Reebok/ Levi’s/ Ben Sherman/ Jaeger/ Monsoon/ Playtex and Calvin Klein for clothing.
Sony and Remington for electrical items.
Virgin Cosmetics/ The Perfume Shop and Woods of Windsor for fragrances, toiletries and cosmetics.
Cloverleaf/ Dartingtons/ Whittard/ Waterford Wedgwood and The Pottery Studio for homewares.
Hallmark Cards/ XS music/ Toy Zone and The National Trust Shop are other specialist outlets.
Considering you are buying seconds or end of season stock on a lot of occasions you could be forgiven you don’t possess the same consumer rights but you do, as long as you have your receipt all outlets offer the same consumer rights as in any other normal retail store.
Onto things like food and toilets !!
On the plus side, the toilets and baby changing areas are very well kept as you would expect in a modern state of the art development. Clark’s Village is very consumer friendly – everything is on one floor, it is well signposted, very tidy and very compact. Wheelchairs don’t have to cope with lifts or steps and there are lots of things to keep young children entertained. I saw a carousel and a childrens play enclosure which seemed bustling yet well monitored.
On the down side I thought the food services were terrible. The only options if you want to sit down for a coffee or a snack are a packed and overpriced Burger King (every queue has at least 20 people in it!), a Starbucks which is equally busy (I don’t want to queue 10 minutes for a muffin if I can’t sit down) and a food court which was pandemonium. To counter this very live problem area is simple, the last outlet lies next to Street’s High St. Simply walk into the High St and make your way a few paces to a not so busy Wetherspoon’s where you can wash a pub lunch down with a pint of best, retail therapy I call it.
Clark’s Village gets a thumbs up from me. It does possess problems such as crowding, congestion and poor food facilities but as with anything in life these days if you use your common sense you can find a way around things. Bargains are on offer, even me who is not really a shopping fan likes the outlet concept. The last time I visited I came away with my hands full of bags yet spent only just over a hundred pounds.
1. Arrive early to avoid peak times and pick up the best deals.
2. Avoid the food services, treat yourselves to a pint in the High St which runs parallel instead. ==========================
Never really been a Clarks fan, though I was very happy when I got a belt there for £3!
voyagerdude220 29.09.2005 21:13
E review, well done! I don't really like shopping either, but have been down to Street, when visiting my Grandma, nr Weston-Super-Mare. I found it to be not very good, especially because of the food situation, like you said. Ian