Tom Tom Time - Finding Cheshire Oaks
Cheshire Oaks Outlet Centre is located at Ellesmere Port, just off the M56 at Junction 10 of the M53 and is well signposted from both motorways. For those unfamiliar with the area, Ellesmere Port is a rather sad and unloved place on the Mersey estuary. If you are a glass half-full sort of person, then it has a fairly interesting Boat Museum or if you are a glass half-empty soul, it's got a massive and sometimes very smelly oil refinery on its doorstep. Fortunately the refinery isn't as unpleasant as it used to be when I first started visiting about 15 years ago. At that time, the area around Ellesmere Port was the only place that I could be sure that the strange smells in my elderly Austin Allegro were coming from outside and not from the engine.
Cheshire Oaks is a McArthur Glen outlet centre, and is one of seven in the UK and 20 or so Europe-wide. At the time Cheshire Oaks first opened in the mid 1990s it was the largest such designer outlet centre in the whole of Europe although I believe it may have now slipped down the rankings a little despite several phases of expansion. I've visited several other such centres and for me Cheshire Oaks remains the original and best option for Outlet shopping. I've been visiting the Oaks since it first opened and still go back to shop every few months and it's where I regularly meet a friend for coffee and sandwiches at Pret a Manger. It's on my route to work and once in a while a girl's just got to give in to temptation.
I think it's worth noting that I hate shopping. Unless I'm haggling over rugs in a far flung exotic place or getting a cracking good bargain, I just can't be bothered. Shopping is not a leisure pursuit for me - it's a necessary evil to be got through as quickly and painlessly as possible.
What should you expect?
Cheshire Oaks currently has around 140 stores and seems to be benefiting from the economic problems of the past year. Many people who don't want to completely abandon their 'labels' can still find the brands they love at significant reductions. It's not all about clothes though, Cheshire Oaks also has great choices for household items, books, toiletries, travel goods, and more handbags than you could get through in a lifetime. They aren't all fancy labels either - in addition to the upmarket stores like Jaeger, Austin Reed, Burberry and Charles Tyrwhitt, you'll also find plenty of mid-range stores like Next, Gap M&S and Oasis. Two of my favourites are Nitya and East, although in the case of Nitya the clothing is pretty impractical and needs a major reduction to be worth looking at.
Size 8 top, size 22 bottom?
It's hard to imagine that such figures exist but if you really want to be sure of a bargain, it probably helps to be a bit oddlly shaped. This is a familar problem associated with outlet clothing or even High Street sales - for example unless you are lucky, you might find the suit you love is only available in a jacket that would be tight on a midget and trousers that would be baggy on an elephant.