Saturday, October 28, 2006

How To Get The Most Out Of Outlet Shopping

I spent the last weekend in Portland, Maine while on a quick vacation with my younger sister, Ellie. We drove up Friday, had a great time exploring, shopping and eating our way through the city. We woke up Saturday to a huge rainstorm, and while I was disappointed that we couldn't do any of the outdoor activities we had planned, I knew we could always go outlet shopping in Freeport, a town 20 minutes from Portland.

As much as I'm a shopping addict, Ellie hates to shop. She wears her clothes and shoes until they have holes (it sometimes borders on the scandalous) and my parents literally have to beg her to buy things (somehow, they have the opposite problem with me). So before my sister came for the weekend, my mom told me that I had to make sure she bought a few things before she came home. I knew that no one else was prepared for the challenge, and I rose to the occasion.

While we were shopping in Freeport, I followed a few rules to maximize our shopping experience. Here they are:

Try the outlet shops before going to the regular stores or buying anything online when the season begins. You'll end up spending less than you normally would by getting most of the items you need deeply discounted.

Decide how much you're willing to spend
overall, before you go. Stick to your budget, because it's easy to buy way more than you need because you're excited to find great deals. As my father likes to say, "you can go broke saving money."

Do some research online before you shop. Decide which stores you want to go to the most. When you get to the outlet mall, visit these stores first, when you have the most energy.

Eat a good breakfast
in the morning so you're not hungry when you get there. Hit your favorite stores first, and later when you're feeling a little tired and hungry, go have lunch. This will give you a boost of energy so you can finish your shopping.

Stay away from the regular-priced stores.
A lot of outlet malls are giving regular-priced stores real estate, and this will only tempt you away from the real deals in the outlet stores.

Find the factory stores. Most outlet stores are hit or miss, as they're filled with things that are no longer in season, couldn't be sold at the regular store or are damaged. On the other hand, true factory stores have their own line of seasonal clothing that is less expensive than the regular store, but retains the trendiness and high quality. Banana Republic, J. Crew, BCBG, Polo Ralph Lauren and Columbia Sportswear all have factory stores with great lines.

Load up on the basics at the outlet mall. Pick up basic sweaters, button down shirts, pants and skirts in bulk and get major discounts. If you make a trip to the outlets a few times a year, you won't have to hit the regular mall for basic items and you'll save a ton.

Look for big-ticket items. I've found evening gowns, winter coats, business suits and leather purses for extremely low prices at outlet malls. I'll never buy a suit at a regular store again.

Following these rules, Ellie and I had a very successful trip at the Freeport outlets. She doubled her current shoe collection to 4 pairs, and I convinced her to get a multi-purpose herringbone skirt, a button-down shirt and a leather purse. It wasn't much, but it's certainly a start, and I think my parents will be pleased that she won't be wearing holey clothes to Thanksgiving dinner with the family.

1 comment:

Luggage Plus said...

Great tips there! Thanks. It's a little different in the UK as our outlets tend to be higher priced and last seasons stock and colour. The high streets are where the best buys are.