Saturday, April 21, 2012

To Outlet, To Outlet, To Buy a...

new wardrobe!  After losing a significant amount of weight so quickly, I found myself severely lacking in the clothing department.  I'm pretty much having to rebuild an entire wardrobe.  I found that I was mostly lacking in the clothes that I wear regularly, the basics.  Also, today being Saturday, and having had completed yet another hectic work week, I decided a shopping trip was in order.

I allowed myself $200 for this trip, to buy my basics plus a pair of scrubs for work and a few items at Target.  Not much to work with, and I'll admit that I wanted clothing from labels I'd bought in the past.  No Prada this time, but could I afford Juicy Couture and Joe's Jeans on this budget?  I could...if I go to Camarillo Premium Outlets!  Of course!  I Googled them to get directions.  Then I went to the outlets' website and found that a Splendid/Ella Moss store was there, too!  OMG!  I knew I HAD to go!  Luckily, for me, it's only a 45-minute drive, totally doable on a Saturday afternoon. 

I found just what I was looking for at Joe's Jeans.  For shorties like me, their Provocateur jeans are EVERYTHING.  At the outlet store, the price is $99.99, and at retail stores, the price is $158 and up (only about a 35% discount, but it's a style that rarely goes on sale, particularly in dark classic washes).  They're not like other denim brands' petite styles, where they seem to just cut inches off their normal styles.  The Provocateur jeans are actually cut to flatter the shorties.  At 5'3"-5'4", the length on me is perfect.  I can wear them with sneakers AND with heels.  And the wash I got is dark enough to be worn out to dinner/drinks (I see myself wearing them with my 150mm Loubies!).  The salesgirls there were so nice.  One of them told me to go to the info desk and present my AAA card for a VIP pass, which is free to members.  Unfortunately, I didn't use the VIP discounts (in order to use them, I had to make bigger purchases), but it was good to know of, anyway.  I highly recommend AAA membership-the discounts I've gotten with it have made it so worth the fee (I used it on my hotel stays in New York during my last 2 trips there).

After going to Joe's, I headed to Juicy.  They had a large selection of velour track pants (not a basic for everybody, but definitely for Angelenos!) for $39 each and some T-shirts for $24.  Great prices, but I couldn't find any pants in a color I liked in my size, and though I love the softness of Juicy tees, I just can't get myself to wear T-shirts with any brand names actually written on them (and it seems all Juicy T-shirts have that).  I love their beach dresses, but I couldn't find any of those in my size, either.  So I left empty-handed.

Then I headed to Splendid/Ella Moss (opened 2 weeks ago, I learned from the cashier).  They had plenty of items in all styles, but the discount wasn't as big as I hoped it would be.  The Splendid crew neck T-shirt sells for $48 at their retail store and for $29 at the outlet, a discount of about 40%.  The tank was a better deal.  It sells for $38 at the retail store and for $19 at the outlet, a discount of 50%.  I ended up getting a red tank.  I'm still debating on the crewneck T-shirt and on a 3/4-sleeve T-shirt I saw there, but I'm of the school of thought that believes that if I'm not sure about it, I should walk away.  As part of their Earth Day promotion, they're giving their customers reusable nylon totes, free with purchase.  It's blue and white, in their infamous stripe design with their asterisk logo.  I'm modeling it, along with my new tank and jeans, here:

The shopping experience at outlet malls is a little different from that in a regular one.  I've added a few tips here.  They're mostly common sense type of things, but hopefully, someone can find them useful:

1) Check out the major department stores' outlets first.  They tend to have the most promotions, often with major discounts.  If you have their store credit card, they may send you notices of their sales by email or snail mail postcards.  They may also have special discounts at their outlet stores just for their cardholders. 

2) You may roll your eyes at this tip, but you'd be surprised at how many people just don't think of it.  Try before you buy!  The majority of outlet stores do not allow refunds, and in some stores, ALL sales are totally final (although most allow exchanges within a certain period, like 7 days).  Even if the store allows refunds, you'd have to return at the outlet and not at the retail store.  I don't know if it's because people try to cram in as many stores as possible in one trip to the outlet mall (they're often a long drive from the major cities), so they feel pressed for time.  Or if they're so blinded by the discount they don't want to face the possibility the item won't fit.  But you'll be surprised at how infrequently people actually try on clothes or shoes at outlets, and I see people try on things all the time at the retail stores. 

3) After you try on your items, inspect them carefully.  Outlet malls are no longer dumping grounds for defective or rejected items, but considering that you'll likely not be able to return your items after you buy them, it's a good idea to make sure you're not getting any duds.

4) Outlets are good opportunities to save on classic items, since they never go on sale in the retail stores.  However, if you're looking for a specific color or style or a limited-edition item, you may not find it. 

5) Think twice about buying gifts from outlet stores.  If there's any doubt that your friend/relative/significant other/co-worker wouldn't like the item you're picking out, just remember that it'd be a hassle for him/her/them to exchange it, even with a gift receipt.  There's the drive time to the outlet mall, then there's the (usually) short amount of time allowed between the date of purchase and exchange deadline, then there's the chance he/she/they won't like anything in the store.

So I'd say I had a successful shopping trip.  I got all the items on my list, including the scrubs, groceries, and the items from Target.  Did I stay under budget?  Yup.  With about $13 to spare!

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