What’s more intriguing, however, is how Coach came up with the discount, given that the coat has never been sold in its London boutique.A spokesman later tells me: ‘All products… either have been previously available for purchase at a higher price in other stores in our European network, or have been discounted with reference to a full retail price consistent with Coach’s other markets.’In other words, the items may never be sold at full price: the brand simply decides how ‘discounted’ to label them. When I subsequently visit Coach’s London store in Bond Street I find a similar trench coat on sale for £320. Both are made in China, but the London coat is a thicker cotton with a classy striped-ticking lining and better detailing: snazzy shoulder epaulettes and a throat latch to ward off the wind, both of which are missing on the outlet version.
At the luxury label Michael Kors outlet in Bicester, which is heaving with shoppers queuing five-deep at the tills, the situation is even more confusing. From the amount of business it appears to be doing, it’s difficult to imagine how excess stock could fill its shelves year round.That’s not to say that there aren’t offerings from last season: an alligator handbag, which was sold in main stores, is reduced from £1,390 to just £320.But there are also other designs that, I’m told, have been made for the outlet.‘Other bags here are not from the collection, but they are made in the same place and from the same leather,’ an assistant tells me.
When I ask how I can tell, she says the Michael Kors logo is printed differently, and the lining is different, too, with a circular design on the boutique bags, and square on the outlet ones. I examine their ‘bag of the moment’, a Jet Set Medium Travel Tote, which I’m told has been made for the outlet. It gives an ‘original’ price of £240 (you can certainly buy a similar tote for this price in Selfridges) and a ‘reduced’ price of £159. A closer look at the tag inside displays the £240 figure as a ‘manufacturer-suggested retail price’.When I contact Michael Kors’ head office, they say the information I have been given in Bicester is incorrect.