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Bay Area Outlet Shopping

by Beverly Dubrin

Every shopper loves a bargain. In and around the San Francisco Bay Area, more than half a dozen shopping malls cater to the bargain hunter in all of us. Most of these bargain malls are away from major urban shopping centers, but close to California freeways and popular vacation spots.
With the growing number of outlet malls, even I, the tireless shopper, get a little bored with the sameness of each mall. In my endless search for the perfect bargain, I have found that each mall has something that distinguishes it from the others -- it is this something that keeps me coming back.

Before you set out on your shopping trip, here are some guidelines for successful shopping:

Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. These malls are big and few offer any kind of transportation from one end to the other. Expect to do a lot of walking. If you are shopping for clothes, wear something that is easy to take off and on. Some stores have communal dressing rooms. If modesty is an issue, consider wearing a body suit, leotard or tights, something you don't have to remove when you try on clothes.

If you are making a special trip, plan to spend the entire day so you can "hit" as many stores as possible.

If you want to eat more than a light meal or don't like quick food, carry food with you. With the exception of the Great Mall of the Bay Area and the American Tin Cannery, most malls have few restaurants. All malls have places for snacks and quick meals.

To save steps, pick up a directory of stores and spend a few minutes looking through it to identify the stores that you especially want to visit. You are on an expedition and need to plan ahead.

Don't be disappointed if you don't find your desired item. Treat a visit to an outlet mall as "sport shopping." Most of the merchandise you will find is overstock, out of season, seconds or irregular. Some outlets carry merchandise that is specially manufactured just for outlets; it may not be of the same quality as the same brand items that you find in your favorite retail store. Despite all this, chances are that you will find something to buy, but it may not be the item for which you had hoped.

Bring your credit cards; most stores gladly accept them.

There are plenty of places to sit down. Pace yourself.
Most malls are open every day. Some are open on major holidays. If you are making a special trip, call ahead to verify the mall's business hours.

Highlights From The Malls
Where Are The Outlet Malls?

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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