Remember when outlet shopping first hit the scene, like 25 years ago (or maybe even longer)? If you don’t or you were too young, let me share. Outlets were a place where manufacturers could dump their surpluses, their leftovers, their slightly irregulars, and you could get monster bargains. The stores themselves were bare-bones. Stuff was often in piles vs. hung up, or if it was hung up the racks were looooooooooong and in rows. You had to work a bit to find what you were looking for, but if you found it, ka-ching!
Then outlet shopping got “big”. The demand for outlet shopping surpassed the supply of leftovers and slightly irregulars. Every locale wanted to have an outlet mall. Outlet malls because tourist destinations.
So now, there are outlet malls all over the place, and they simply aren’t what they used to be. Heck, they don’t even come close to fitting the mold of the outlet mall I knew from my youth. Outlet malls are just like regular malls now, save two features:
- The stores are arranged by manufacturer rather than vendor. E.g., instead of Macy’s, Nordstrom, etc. you have Calvin Klein, Jones New York, etc.
- Outlet malls can get away with being outdoor even in cold weather climates, because they are “bargain” malls and they can’t afford roofs, or something.
We took a trip yesterday to Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, which is a half-hour from our house. (All the outlet malls these days are “Premium Outlets”. Maybe that’s where the difference is.) But, aside from having to bundle up between stores, I don’t much get how the merchandise, or the prices, are much different than if I walked into any cookie-cutter mall in North America. (Mexico excluded, I assume. But I’ve never been there, maybe they have awesome malls. My apologies to Mexico if I’m making an ass of you and me.)
There are, of course, exceptions. The Stride Rite outlet is well-known to be a harbinger of good deals on quality children’s shoes. It is the sole reason we made the trek to Woodbury. (Well, officially I think it’s Harriman or Central Valley. Woodbury is a town or two over; I guess Woodbury sounds more hoity-toity than Harriman.) Jake is sporting himself a size 5.5 XW shoe size these days. In layman’s speak, he has duck feet. Therefore I cannot get him shoes at Target, because the ping-pong paddles he has for dogs simply won’t fit into their affordable shoes. Stride Rite, therefore, is the only place I can in good conscience outfit his feet. However, if you walk into a Stride Rite at your local mall and ask for an affordable pair of shoes, they will laugh at you. I think it is store policy. Stride Rite shoes regularly sell for $45-60 in the regular mall. However, yesterday we got Jake two pairs of shoes — a pair of sandals for our trip to Aruba and a pair of sneakers — for $50. Still not Target-cheap, but a vast improvement over mall prices.
The other exception is The Children’s Place. While they have some regular priced merchandise around the perimeter, their store is largely filled with what I’m guessing is regular-store clearance stuff that they want to get out of the regular stores, for awesome prices. Yesterday we got four or five assorted sweaters and fleece tops, a couple pairs of socks, a couple pairs of tights, a pack of underwear, a pair of mittens, a winter hat, and a pair of pants for $23.
And we found a few other deals, which I won’t bore you with. But, I can find deals at my regular mall.
Some stores are blatantly just copies of the stores in the regular mall. Disney and Bose come to mind. Same stuff, same prices. Outlet location. And for the life of me I cannot figure out the difference between Carter’s and Carter’s outlets now. Even a few years ago, there was a difference. Now… not so much.
All in all, yesterday was a fun day, we hung out as a family and accomplished our primary objective of shoes for Jake, so I’m not complaining. I could have lived without Lane’s poop accident (which necessitated the purchase of pants and underwear at The Children’s Place) but otherwise, good day.