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Gymboree and Carter's Outlet vs. Retail
Gymboree follows the model of companies such as Gap Inc., manufacturing lines specifically for its kids clothing outlets. Gymboree reproduces collections for its outlets a year after they come out in the regular mall stores, so the 2011 collection at the outlet is nearly the same as the 2010 collection from the flagship stores -- but not quite.
At the retail store, we found a black, red, and gold tartan dress with an ivory bodice and red bow waistband for $56.95 and tights with pink and red bows for $14.95. A similar outfit could be found for less at the Gymboree outlet, where we saw a red tulle dress with rosettes for $39.99 and coordinating bow tights for $9.99. For boys, a brown, argyle, button-neck sweater was $36.95 at the mall; a white dress shirt cost $29.95; brown herringbone pants were $32.95; and dress socks were $3.25 a pair. At the lower-priced Gymboree outlet, we found a red, argyle, three-quarter-zip sweater for $27.99; a red-and-black plaid dress shirt for $18.99; grey herringbone dress pants for $24.99; and argyle dress socks for $3.99. In addition, the clothing at the outlet was 25 percent off.
Differences between the Gymboree dresses.
Differences between the Gymboree boys' sweaters.
The other kids clothing outlet we examined, Carter's, claims to run not outlet stores but rather retail stores at outlet malls. The company sells the same merchandise at its outlet locations as it does in big-box, warehouse, and department stores. While the list prices on Carter's outlet items are generally the same as you'll find at other retailers, the outlet stores run near-constant promotions and rarely sell items at full list price. They also send out discount coupons regularly, entitling those on their mailing list to save 20 percent or 25 percent off outlet store purchases. Another popular children's brand frequently found at outlet malls, OshKosh B'Gosh, is owned by the same parent company and operates similarly.
Interestingly, when we priced out full-price Carter's merchandise at a Dillard's department store and the kids clothing outlet, Dillard's not only kept up but often came out far cheaper. For instance, three-piece Little Layette sets weren't on sale at the Carter's outlet store and cost $20.00, compared with $10.99 at Dillard's. However, the department store carries only sizes up to 24 months and does not offer separates such as jeans and T-shirts. The Carter's outlet store features a much larger selection of merchandise, and clothing is available in sizes up to 6x for girls and 7 for boys.
Summer shopping for kids necessitated a quick stop back at the Gap. Although the kids clothing section was chaotic during our outlet excursion, we managed to find boys' graphic tees for $14.99 plus 40 percent off, and girls' graphic tees for $14.99 with another 20 percent discount. Full-priced boys' and girls' graphic tees were $14.95, but the retail store had a selection of girls' tees on sale for as low as $7.99 and some boys' tees were reduced to $8.99.
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