World's Top Outlet Stores
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to score a deal? From Maine to Japan, these discount outlets are worth
New York–based stylist Ellianna
Placas is an A-list fashionista who’s dressed celebrities from Oprah Winfrey to
Brazilian supermodel Camila Alves. Yet when she travels—say, to Milan Fashion
Week—she always reserves a few days to scour outlet malls. She’ll even cross
the Swiss border to the FoxTown outlet store in Mendrisio. Why? “It’s Prada,
Prada, Prada,” she swoons, “and everything else you can think of—at more than
Placas isn’t alone, of course: the lure of the discount calls all
types of shoppers. Outlets exist all over the globe—from Maine to Japan—and the best ones are destinations
in and of themselves. For the bargain hunter, unearthing a deal on Gucci,
Pucci, or Dolce & Gabbana can be just as adrenaline pumping as visiting the
where and how did they begin? The late Dexter Shoe magnate Harold Alfond is
credited with inventing the outlet concept in the 1960s at his factory in Maine—instead of junking imperfect pairs, he’d sell them at a reduced price. Since then,
outlets have become a major worldwide business: they’re the ideal way of
off-loading (often imperceptibly) imperfect merchandise as well as past-season
premium goodies at deep discounts—often with no discernible difference in
quality from what’s sold at your local department store (albeit in season).
outlets took off around the globe, they underwent some adaptations too. Some
are brand-specific, like the one for Le Creuset, the high-end cookware company based in
the tiny northern French town of Fresnoy-le-Grand. Brits come here by the
boatload to snap up cast-iron cooking pots and pans for around 50 percent off.
outlets cram tons of designer brands into a one-stop shopping experience. More
than 200 stores make up Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, for example, 90 minutes north of New York City. So while the luxe shops of Fifth Avenue are great for window-shopping, head to Woodbury to buy. After all, you’ll find
some of the same brands—Burberry, Armani, Coach—as you will in the city, but up
to 65 percent off.
Treat malls like these as you would a destination: pick up a map
and get to know its geography. “Outlets are set up for optimal shopping
efficiency,” says Danica Lo, the editor of Racked.com. “Woodbury Common
is shaped like a flower, so start from the middle and go around each petal.”
Then, hit the most important place first. Brands with lots of
outlets (like Nike or Banana Republic) don’t have great deals, but designers
with just a few stores, like Gucci and Anya Hindmarch, will usually offer
Also, beware the companies whose outlets stock merchandise
produced specifically for them—those aren’t discount deals, just cheap stuff.
“It mostly happens with the mass market, but the labels are different from the
normal store,” Lo explains. “The colors are often reversed; the Gap has a
different label all together.”
Take these tips along on your next outlet excursion. And don’t
forget to pack an extra suitcase.