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Coach and Kate Spade Outlet vs. Retail
We found the accessories on our holiday shopping list at the Kate Spade New York and Coach factory stores. The mix of merchandise was similar at both accessories outlets -- handbags, wallets, smartphone cases, jewelry, scarves.
According to salespeople we spoke with at both accessories outlets, the leather and hardware used to manufacture made-for-outlet goods are the same materials used in items sold at retail, but outlet items are simplified. The retail merchandise we saw for both brands featured more embellishment and generally had a more luxe appearance than the made-for-outlet goods. Outlet styles were often more classic and predictable versus trendy and modern. (If you're wondering whether a Coach bag was made for the factory store, look for an F in the style number on the label inside.)
Purses from the Kate Spade outlet.
We found a basic, black leather tote called the Wellesley at the Kate Spade outlet that would make a great splurge. It sold for $325.00 and was an additional 30 percent off the day we shopped. The closest comparable bag we found at Nordstrom was the Knightsbridge Mod Little Helena shoulder bag, which was slightly smaller and had longer straps. It sold for $395.00 and was far more detailed than the Wellesley, with shiny, croc-embossed leather, gold-tone chain straps, and an etched metal brand plate, compared with the leather one on the outlet tote. The retail bag featured two inside compartments, plus additional zipper pockets, and closed with a magnetic tab, while the outlet bag had only one large interior compartment that zipped shut.
At the Coach outlet, we found a liquidation bag, recently sent from retail, that stood out from the crowd. This particular purse was in the Maggie style, a silver/grey, croc-embossed leather shoulder bag from the label's Madison collection. It was marked $598.00 but was selling for 30 percent off that day. We were also handed a coupon in the store for an additional 20 percent off, which brought the price to just about $335.00. At Coach in the regular mall, we found a more opulent Maggie bag, also from the current Madison collection, made of leather embossed with the Op Art "C" design, available in two color combinations. It was a similar size and cost $498.00.
iPhone Accessories at the Kate Spade outlet.
Kate Spade bangles at both the outlet store and at Nordstrom were elegant enough for adults yet fun and fresh enough for tough-to-please teens. A black-and-white enamel bangle at the Kate Spade outlet ran $88.00 before discounts, but the outlet offered an extra 30 percent off the day we were there. At the Nordstrom jewelry counter, spade-hinge bangles made of gold and colored enamel with a gold spade closure also cost $88.00 each.
At the Coach outlet, a silk scarf with a signature "C" zebra print carried an MSRP of $48.00 and cost $29.00, while similarly sized silk scarves in various patterns ran $98.00 at retail. Coach also carries a few items specifically for men. A Heritage Stripe collection wallet at the outlet was listed at $148.00 but cost $82.88 after discounts and coupons were applied. A Heritage Stripe passcase ID wallet similar in design and nearly identical in layout sold for $148.00 at the Coach retail store.
Accessories also went into our summer shopping basket. Bold and bright fun items like bangles and beach-ready bags appeal to many women, but who wants to shell out big bucks for something with a short shelf life? To hold costs in check, we turned again to three stalwart brands: Banana Republic, Tommy Bahama, and Nine West.
Jewelry was 40% off at the Banana Republic outlet.
The Tommy Bahama outlet was selling a raffia Campbell tote with leather handles for $82.60; a very similar tote crocheted from raffia and metal fiber, the Small Sur, sold for $118.00 at retail. A straw-look tote for $39.99 at the Nine West outlet came in navy, orange, pink, natural, and black. The closest retail version was a raffia and orange synthetic leather tote reduced to $69.00 from $99.99.
Outlet store prices on summer accessories were far lower than their retail counterparts, although the disparity between the two Tommy Bahama venues was less dramatic. But consider what you're getting. To our eyes, the outlet pieces appeared less well made, particularly the jewelry. The exception was the Tommy Bahama outlet tote, which seemed on par with the label's retail version. If you're looking for a one-season addition to your accessory wardrobe, an outlet purchase is probably the smart choice. If you have sensitivities to certain metals, or you want a piece that will hold up over time, wait for a sale and buy retail.
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