There is an urban myth that amazing bargains can be found in the US outlets. It is true. Yes, it’s so true.
I asked the concierge at the hotel, what I should do on a rainy day in Hawaii. Without hesitation, she suggested visiting the outlets. I thought she must be a shopper. However, her well-worn handbag would tell another story.
I’m not a shopper. Its raining and today I may just have to try it.
As I walked to the Duke Statue on Waikiki beach, there were hordes of females with suitcases. Perhaps this is the airport pick up point? The bus arrived and started packing the suitcases under the bus. Is this the right bus?? I was assured it was. Even though the bus resembled an airport pick up, it was headed straight to the outlets.
I started to wonder if I should have a suitcase as well. Seriously! how much are these shopping enthusiasts going to purchase?? Obviously, a substantial amount. I must be missing something here.
After 45mins winding in and out of traffic, we arrived. I was expecting to see a large Mall with tourist buses. And crazy shoppers running frantically between the shops, as they do on the boxing day sales. I was so wrong. There were a multitude of individual large stores, surrounded by tall palm trees and the coffee shops. The names were recognizable. Coach, Polo Ralph Lauren, ASICS, Tommy Hilfiger, to name a few. The energy in the bus was contagious. I even started to feel excited. And I am a non-shopper.
We were given a black coupon booklet and a map. Then we were let loose.
I decided to start at Tommy Hilfiger. Walking into a gigantic store, I instantly had a headache. The colors. The over friendly staff. The loud music. It was all a little too much. I was handed a large material ‘shopping bag’. Really! I will not need this. It is huge.
As I walked around the store, I noticed the sale signs 70% off with an additional 20% off the total bill. OMG. A Tommy Hilfiger t-shirt would normally sell for AUD$99. In this outlet, they were US$10. Then add the coupon discount, and the 20% off the total bill, these t-shirts are a bargain.
I started to wonder if my material shopping bag was big enough. Perhaps I need two. Could I pass for a real shopper?
After purchasing a ridiculous number of t-shirts and work shirts. I ventured into the ASICS shop. After working out my size I noticed that the sports tights were reduced to US$9 each. Really!! I had to purchase all the size smalls they have. I need to stock up. I can’t believe I recently spent AUD$129 on tights and here they are US$9 each!!! Bargain. What is going on?? Can this be true??
After shopping for two hours non-stop I was wishing I had my suitcase with me. I envied the ladies wheeling around their suitcase full of goodies, while I struggled to carry my super large bags.
I ventured into the Coach store. I saw it immediately. Beckoning me to come closer. It was the Quinn Dome-shaped Satchel. Stunning. In metallic blue. My favorite color. It currently retails for AUD$695. I saw it for US$80. Was this correct? Were my calculations with the discounts correct? Yes. Absolutely. Without a doubt. So I purchased five Coach bags and left quickly before I was tempted to buy another.
The outlet stores are as good as everyone claims they are. Even better. Here are the tricks I wish I had known before I ventured there.
Take an organized bus to the outlets.
After a few hours of shopping, converting currency, frantically Googling the item to see how much you are saving. The organized buses are a lifesaver.
Roberts Buses will pick you up from four key locations and take you to the outlets. They will also return you with all your goodies for US$18.
I found it amusing how many people were sleeping on the bus returning to Waikiki beach. They looked as exhausted as I felt.
Look online first
I wasted a considerable amount of time in Polo Ralph Lauren googling the items and comparing prices in Australia. I would have been more productive if I;
1. Looked online at the general items in the outlet
2. Looked at the prices in Australia so that I knew what savings I was having
3. Converted the currency ahead of time
Know what stock the outlets have will ensure you have a better shopping experience.
Transfer money ahead of time to your travel card
Transfer money onto your travel card ahead of time. Then you will be shopping in US dollars. It is annoying to have to keep adding money to your card. I found that in some of the outlets I did not have internet access. Very annoying. I had to run out of the store to transfer the money. Hold up the queue of people and return.
Take a large bag – with wheels
There is the option of purchasing a large paper bag for US$0.15 however when it is loaded with goodies it is not only heavy but also flimsy.
Take note of the hard-core shoppers, take one of your suitcases with you. Yes not the best look, however very practical.