Magazine article Newsweek International

Embracing the Outlets

Magazine article Newsweek International

Embracing the Outlets

Article excerpt

It's a gray weekday in mid-November, but Nicolas Sarlandie and Benedicte Poissons are aglow with the thrill of a successful bargain hunt. The pair traveled two hours by car from Paris southeast to Troyes to peruse the 82 shops of the McArthur Glen factory-outlet mall, which offers steep discounts on outdated merchandise by designers like Versace, Armani and Ralph Lauren. Poissons and Sarlandie each spent about $133, Poissons mainly on some black shirts at LA City, and Sarlandie on sports clothes from Lacoste. Heading home, they are tired but happy. "I come here once or twice a year," says Poissons. "But I still remember the bargains I got last year. It's a real kick to get things half price."

Europeans are finally catching on to the joys of outlet shopping. New malls are springing up from Manchester to Madrid, offering top labels for discounts of up to 70 percent. With a little careful hunting, shoppers can unearth a coveted Tag Heuer watch, the perfectly fitting Max Mara blazer or even a pair of last year's Pradas--for $100! And unlike in America, where outlet centers are often generic bare-bones structures, Europe's latest are stylish enough to lure shoppers hundreds of kilometers out of their way. Austria's designer-outlet center in Parndorf, which opened two years ago, is built in the style of a traditional baroque farmhouse, with colors ranging from pink to bright yellow. The Troyes center boasts three restaurants. Greece's Factory Outlet mall, located in a former mill outside Athens, offers banking and baby-sitting services. "We've tried hard to make the malls in Europe more esthetic and more interesting than they need to be for the U.S. market," says Joe Kaempfer, the U.S. businessman who in 1995 opened the immensely popular Cheshire Oaks, outside Manchester. He joined with the British Airport Authority to form BAA McArthurGlen, which now operates 11 outlet centers in Europe. …

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