Go to Designer Outlet at the Mar Shopping Centre in Loulé, and there is no question about it, you will leave laden with bags full of wonderful bargains. Susi Rogol-Goodkind sets out to spend.
Not all the shops have opened their doors yet at the long-awaited Designer Outlet complex and that’s possibly a good thing – especially to those who cannot resist a special find and the opportunity to save as much as 70 per cent on an item they would happily have paid full price for had they seen it elsewhere.
Fancy a fancy bag? Spanish high-fashion house Bimba Y Lola has divine dress-up clutches at €92, reduced from €295 and a great selection of cute little zip-up wallets for around €20. Their separates collection is young, fresh and adventurous and there’s plenty to choose from at what seems like crazy prices.
More fab bags are part of the offering at Purificacion Garcia, (Puri to its legion of fans) another Spanish label and one that is known for delivering a twist on the classics. Reckon on saving a highly-attractive 50% – minimum! In the store right now are cropped Chanel-style jackets in soft checkered tweed, tunic tops in brilliant colours and striking prints, and perfectly-cut palazzo pants that are great for on-the-terrace entertaining. Amanda Holden (not that Amanda Holden), of Vale d’Eguas, went to look and came out beaming – and with more than a few bags: “I love to shop at Purificacion Garcia. I bought a fabulous fringed long waistcoat that goes over dresses and jeans. And a fab stripy shirt for Mr H. They were under half price!” Narrow jackets, sweaters cut close to the body, and great-looking slim-line shirts what this iconic house has ready and waiting for the fashion-forward fella.
There’s nowhere to stop for a coffee or glass of vinho or a snack in the Designer Outlets which leaves more time to cruise the shops. (Though there are plenty of eateries in Mar itself, including the four chefs designer foodie section that is certainly worth a lunchtime trip – divine home made pasta in particular).
Pick up a bright-coloured wheelie at Samonsite – or black if you don’t want to get noticed – there’s 20%-40% savings across every range. Now you can shop more, and have less to carry!
The choice is huge
Of course, no shopping centre, bargain priced or otherwise, could do without the big names in sportswear, and here they are huge (the floor space as well as the labels!). A vast Adidas is packed with rails of the latest kit, while Pepe Jeans, Puma and Ericeira Surf and Skate compete for attention from those in search of the fashion-led must-have trainers and track suits. The high street chains are here, too, like Calzedonia and Intimissimi, Springfield and Desigual all set to capture a slice of your fashion spend.
In all, there are more than 50 outlet stores – all leading brands with their own sense of style and brand personality.
Decenio men’s section has sweaters in more than a dozen colours and every conceivable variation on the classic shirt (okay, so that shop alone had me waving my credit card for a purchase designed to placate the other half when he saw my mounting number of receipts!). My friend Jennifer bought her bloke not one but two sweaters, and got taken out for a very smart dinner as the result. (Bloke did not realise she’d paid less for each than the price of a main course in the restaurant of his choice.) And then there is Timberland. And Lion of Porches. And Rockport, where Jonathan Gee bought virtually the same shoes as the pair he had bought full price in Algarve Shopping just a few months earlier.
But it is not just fashion that is pulling in an appreciate audience. There is much for the home. And Home is the very appropriate name for a store lined with gleaming frying pans of every shape and size and finish, shiny cutlery and kitchen gadgets, wonderful electrical things, and Rowenta (a key brand in the shop) with its own, well-priced answer to Mr Dyson’s stick vacuum.
Prato do dia
The big Vista Alegre outlet is where to stock up not only on essentials like frosted glass platters and china of every description, but also on over-sized pots and pans (back to Samsonite for another wheelie); oversize really means what it says on the label here, so just think of all that room inside for those irresistible little gift items (buy now and keep for Christmas gift-giving?) that will not make a dent on your shopping budget.
Need sunglasses? A new watch? How about a fine cotton duvet cover, and a pair of cosy warm pyjamas? It’s all here. At crazy prices. And not just for the occasional Black Friday or Miserable Monday clear-it-out sale, but every day, all year round. Open till late.
The people behind the operation know exactly what they are doing, and what will result in happy customers, and happy shop owners. The Designer Outlet Algarve is the first in Europe to be integrated with a store (IKEA), a shopping mall and an outdoor leisure area. A joint venture between IKEA and Mutschler Outlet Holding, it is under the managementof Vienna-based ROS Retail Outlet Shopping, whose founders, Thomas Reichenauer and Gerhard Graf, boast a portfolio that includes designer outlets across eastern Europe and new developments in Germany, France, Poland, Italy, Spain and Croatia.
Bimba y Lola
Calvin Klein (coming soon)
Casa das Pelas
Lion of Porches
Sacoor One (coming soon)
Sacoor Outlet (coming soon)
Be on Time
Michael Kor Eyewear
Ericeira Surf and Skate
CK Underwear (coming soon)
Perfume and Cosmetics
Perfumes & Companhia
The Body Shop
Home & Cook