Surviving the big shop

  • ELIZABETH WOLFF / edge correspondent
  • Monday, August 28, 2000 9:00pm
  • Local News

Undoubtedly you have begun the annual back-to-school shopping crusade. Probably your child or teen has pointed out in advertisements what they would like for the new school year.

If not, it is time to think about shopping. School is right around the corner, and stores know that. The sales are fantastic, and if you know how to shop right, any kid can look great even on a tight budget.

Fortunately, mall-phobics have more options than ever. If muscling your way through throngs of shoppers just to get into the Gap doesn’t sound like much fun, take heart.

Outlet malls have sprung up everywhere, and offer great deals without the hassle of an ordinary mall. And with a simple Internet connection, shopping can take place in the comfort of your own home.

If you don’t mind driving a bit, there are several outlet malls less than an hour from Everett. Set aside a day to shop with your teen, and plan on spending a few hours at your mall of choice.

The Supermall in Auburn (253-833-9500c) offers 84 stores, including American Outpost, Old Navy, Footaction USA, Mariposa and Zumiez.

Although the sheer size of the Supermall can be overwhelming, a trip is certainly worth it, especially if you have a lot to buy.

Most of the stores are factory outlets, which sell overstock, discontinued colors and styles, and last season’s clothing. They are excellent places to buy basics like jeans, chinos, shirts and shoes.

The stock won’t be identical to regular full-priced stores, but quite a bit is similar, and the prices are unbelievable.

The Supermall has an expansive food court, so there is no need to plan around meals. Go in the morning, have lunch and come home in the afternoon. This is a place where you can spend a lot of time, so plan on at least three hours.

The Prime Outlets in Burlington (360-757-3549) contains 36 stores, including Gap, JCrew, Tommy Hilfiger, Reebok and Fila. Similar to the Supermall, but smaller, the Prime Outlets can be a good choice for someone with less time to work with.

Boasting several sports and footwear stores, this may be the place to buy shoes and workout gear. While your teen is shopping at Vans or the Gap, check out Jones NY, Liz Claiborne or Van Heusen for your own fall wardrobe.

The Factory Stores in North Bend (425-888-4505) offers similar rock-bottom prices, with a new selection of stores. Forty-six outlets make the Factory Stores a great day trip. While you are there, check out great brands like Nike, Adidas, Bugle Boy and Claires.

If spending hours at outlet malls still isn’t your idea of a good time, get online. There are some great stores on the Internet. Nearly all online shopping requires credit card payment, which can be irritating for younger shoppers.

Fortunately, many stores allow parents to make deposits into an online account, like a gift certificate. Simply deposit money from your credit card into a virtual personal account, and let your teen go to work. They can shop alone or with you, and spend to the limit in their account.

For online outlet stores, visit www.outletmall.com, a database of discount sites.

From there, try www.bargainclothing.com. With savings on women’s and juniors’ clothing up to 75 percent it is definitely worth a visit. www.bargainclothing.com also has a wide selection of plus-size clothing, often difficult to find in ordinary stores.

For thousands of ideas for men, women, teens and kids, visit www.bluefly.com. BlueFly specializes in discount designer clothing, with big names like Calvin Klein, Gucci and Donna Karan.

Nearly all of your favorite stores have online sites, many of which have discount, sale or clearance sections. To find a favorite store online, most Web addresses are very straightforward. Simply try typing the name of the store between "www." and ".com" and begin your shopping adventure.

If your teen doesn’t like computers or long drives and insists on shopping at the local mall, there are still some crucial shopping tactics.

A great rule of thumb is never to pay full price. With so many sales happening, it doesn’t make sense to pay full price for anything in September.

Major department sales will offer a 10 to 25 percent discount for signing up for their cards, and some issue free discount cards for particular departments.

Sears’ Pulse card works in the juniors department, and is good for free clothes, music or discounts, depending on the week.

If a store doesn’t have discounts or sales, check their sister companies. For example, if there is a gorgeous sweater at Gap for $60 and you aren’t comfortable paying that much, check Old Navy. Both are owned by the same company, and many styles are very similar. You might find an identical sweater for $30, and only the label is different.

Take advantage of deals if it makes sense. Buy-one-get-one-50-percent-off sales are very popular in shoe stores. If your teen doesn’t need two pairs of school shoes, think outside the box. Do they need dress or sports shoes? Does anyone else in the family need shoes? Even if it is back-to-school shopping, some opportunities are too good to pass up.

If you have the time, comparison shop between stores. Don’t buy the first thing your teen likes. Scope out what is available, then decide where the best value is.

Back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Explore your options; the mall is not for everyone, but neither is the Internet. As long as you shop sensibly, it is difficult to go wrong.

Happy shopping!

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