Before I show you, here is the list as far as research can determine, of the UK Cosmetic Company Stores. Please be aware they do not sell online, so you will not find an associated website; any websites trading under similar names are just aiming to confuse you.
Bicester Village Oxon
Clarks Village Somerset
Swindon Designer Outlet
Gunwharf Quays Portsmouth
Freeport Braintree Essex
Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet Ellesmere Port
McArthur Glen Outlet Bridgend
York Designer Outlet
Livingstone Designer Outlet near Edinburgh
The Quays Gloucester
If coming from London, Bicester is nearest at a 40 minute train journey from Marylebone. However Portsmouth has a rich history and is a lovely place to visit, plus my suspicion is that you get better deals. The service in all the shops I went to was first-rate.
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
Get off at Portsmouth Harbour Station (pictured) Spinnaker Tower in background - from this tower you can see across the English Channel on a fine day
Anyway let's get to the CCO now. It is owned by Estee Lauder, so naturally encompasses:
Estee Lauder, MAC, Smashbox, Aveda, Origins, Tom Ford, Bobbi Brown, Darphin, Aerin, Bumble and Bumble, Clinique, Donna Karan, Michael Kors, Ojon and Glamglow.
(+Others which are owned by the company but these are the ones I spotted.)
The nice thing about these stores, and in some ways even better than the discount, is finding gift sets, travel exclusives, asian-aimed skincare which is hard to find in most stores, or limited edition pieces.
As it was near Christmas (unless this is commonplace) they had many gift-wrapped bundles and I even managed to find a gift-wrapped bundle on 50% off the original CCO price, for just over £12, and it looks like it must have cost me upwards of £40. They even gave me my purchases in an elegant white laminated bag and wrapped it in red tissue paper inside. I got the same high-end treatment (or better) as I would expect in a department store, whilst getting reduced prices. The shop was very neat and testers were clean and available for virtually every piece there. It was a real pleasure to browse and shop, and the staff were helpful and friendly.
I was very restrained because I'm on an unofficial "low-buy". There comes a time in a makeup addict's life when you do become jaded. At this point I have so much that it's a rare time when I see something that doesn't instantly remind me of at least 3 dupes in my stash. I do buy essentials like mascara and skincare which run out, but the days of amassing collection pieces just to prove "I woz here!" have all but gone. The occasional holiday piece if it's really breathtaking, but the average MAC collection just isn't the milestone it used to be...
MAC do many more promotions online than they ever did 'in my day', too. There is no doubt that their stranglehold of even just ten years ago, has been slackened by social-media fuelled indie brands. Indeed, MAC are now collaborating with Youtube celebrities at a frenzied rate. I remember when Temptalia did an April Fools spoof post about her collaboration with MAC - Just a year later, it was true. This was 2011, and I would say that's possibly the zenith of when the tide really turned. My point being, that some of these CCO discounts (typically only about £10 saving) can be equalled using a cashback site (I like Topcashback) and buying from sites which are offering gifts or other enticements; just the other day MAC was giving away a limited edition blusher from a random LE collection in 2016 with minimum purchase, which clearly was otherwise destined for a CCO. So in other words, the thrill of a CCO is to be taken in context.
That being said, it was immense fun to see old collections brought back to life. MAC Trolls and the infamous bright blue and green lipsticks collection which reduced MAC to literally giving them away were present and correct. A few odd Mariah Carey items and a lone brush set from Nutcracker Sweet. So far so predictable. They also had a large amount from the moribund Estee Edit collection. I fought against my resentment of the cringey names and bought the last "Mega Chorella" soap bar for £12; as far as I can see from ingredients it is identical to the current Estee Lauder Algae soap which is £20.
But the surprise was to see lots of current products, even Estee Lauder Doublewear was there! - and not just the dark shades as is usually the case. Plus my favourite powder Lucidity. Clinique stalwart skincare items such as Dramatically Different Gel, and some brushes, eg a MAC 239 at around the £15 mark. (I didn't remember paying much more than that and frankly that price seemed high for a CCO to me, but it was still nice to see an iconic MAC brush in a CCO.) There were also gift sets including an Estee Lauder set I bought online a while ago for about £30 and considered a great deal, for about £20 in the CCO. (3 minute makeup bag which I blogged about here.) There were some novelty Glamglow mud masks, and limited edition Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess items, Clinique palettes, Bobbi Brown shimmer bricks. They also had the Estee Lauder Crescent White collection which I always enjoy finding to try out in person. The BB cream and the sunscreen are superb. They sadly didn't have the Origins Spot remover or my favourite Aveda smooth Infusion shampoo (although I did score the smooth infusion mask at half price of CCO price bringing it to a tasty £9) but when shopping at an outlet, obviously it's a place where you have to be adaptable. I would highly recommend a visit and I can personally say that Portsmouth was a really fun day out. Not to mention that if you're a history buff, they have some great museums there too.
Estee Lauder Crescent White
...Let me know in the comments if I have missed out any CCO UK locations. And report back with any of your own CCO finds :)