Saffron-robed monks are heading to their car, swinging Vera Bradley shopping bags. It’s a Tuesday, the weekly 50 Plus Shopper Perks day at Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets. And yes, the monks look old enough to qualify for the 10 percent discount.
Whether it’s a bargain Burberry metallic leather bag or a deeply discounted pink Kitchen Aid stand mixer, the thrill of finding a great item at a great price sends serious shoppers from all over the world zipping up Dulles Greenway to Leesburg Corner. The center opened in 1998 and now has 110 stores selling overstocks, returns, discontinued items, damaged goods, excess inventory, special buys and some products manufactured solely for outlet sale.
You can’t always find the color or size you need, and the constantly changing prices and promotions can be confusing (and sometimes not necessarily a bargain), but it’s the unexpected score that gets you bragging rights.
This center’s high-end merchandise, villagelike setting and proximity to Dulles International Airport bring busloads of international travelers, according to Michele Rothstein, a spokeswoman for the center’s owner, Simon Property Group, Premium Outlets Division. Rothstein says about a third of the customers live outside the Washington area, many outside the United States.
As at most outlet centers, stores selling dresses and purses (J Crew, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors) outnumber stores that sell lamps and coffee tables. But look closely at the store list and you’ll find some good home furnishings and kitchen brands, including three major ones clustered together: Restoration Hardware Outlet, Williams-Sonoma Outlet and Le Creuset Factory Store. Buying a sofa at an outlet has always been a challenge, unless you drive a pickup, but the Restoration Hardware Outlet can provide the name of a third-party delivery service. For something smaller, there’s always Yankee Candle (which has one that smells like toasted marshmallows). And at the Saks Fifth Avenue Off Fifth outlet last month, I discovered designer home merchandise: a Kate Spade crystal bowl marked $124.99 (minus 30 percent off) and a $24.99 Jonathan Adler Fiji candle (minus 20 percent off). At Corningware Corelle Revere, there are glass storage containers and Lodge cast-iron pans. At the Kitchen Collection, you might snag Paula Deen pots and Rachel Ray dinnerware at discount.
If you haven’t been here in a while, you might be disappointed that two popular home outlets, Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn, have closed their Leesburg locations. Note to center management: An outlet for discount sheets and towels would be a welcome addition to this mix.
Le Creuset, a French maker of porcelain-enamel-glazed cast-iron cookware, has built up a cultish following among cooks. Collectors love its gumdrop colors (such as aubergine and Dijon yellow) and the way the pieces conduct heat. You’ll find overruns, seconds and recently retired products. The 55 Le Creuset outlets across the country also stock dinnerware, utensils and wine accessories. According to Diane Foster, Le Creuset’s director of stores, most items are 10 to 40 percent off. If you have a specific piece in mind, do price research. On a recent visit, I saw a $205 fry pan for $134 and a $120 stockpot for $78. Register to get e-mails about sales and special factory shipments. You’ll hear French and other languages being spoken: Shopping here can be cheaper, and there are colors and shapes not available in Europe.
When the Restoration Hardware Outlet opened here in 2005, it was the second in the country. Now there are 14 outlets nationally, and they all have a fast-changing merchandise assortment that might include Turkish bath towels in discontinued colors or slightly
dinged-up espresso wood headboards. They also carry Baby & Child merchandise such as lampshades and cribs. On a recent visit, I spotted a wooden medicine cabinet ($395 down to $158), a twin cotton quilt ($229 to $136.99) and a good-looking taupe velvet settee ($995 to $696). A w ine barrel eight-arm chandelier was dangling from the ceiling, marked down from $2,595 to $1,816. And on that particular day, everything was an additional 20 percent off. Regulars know that shipments come in Tuesday mornings, according to Angela Raleigh, a store employee. Sign up for the customer e-mail list for promotions. If you are looking for a specific item, you can leave your name on a call list. Remember, all sales here are final.
A black Halo 1.5-quart tea kettle listed at $75 was tagged $46 at the Le Creuset Factory Outlet. An additional special sale that day got it down to $27.60. (Full disclosure: I bought one.)
Before heading to the outlets, sign up for the VIP Shopper Club at www.
premiumoutlets.com and print out the voucher for a coupon booklet. When you arrive, head to the Information Center and get your booklet. The coupons are also free to AAA members. The Web site lists other members-only deals. Some outlets have Facebook pages or Twitter feeds that post discounts.
GRAB A BITE
The usual food court choices are classed up by a Balducci’s Express, where you can pick up a Caprese ficelle sandwich or a nice-looking grilled chicken Caesar salad. If you want a respite, about five minutes’ drive away is Blue Ridge Grill, a friendly and homey bistro with a kids’ menu. It’s a good place to sit and organize your coupons.
There is a huge Black Friday tradition with special discounts. The sale begins with Midnight Madness (which starts at some stores before midnight). Weekend and holiday parking can be challenging. But midweek, you can usually park right in front of any store.
Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets is at 241 Fort Evans Road NE, Leesburg.
703-737-3071. More information at www.premiumoutlets.com.
Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Check the Web site for special seasonal openings.
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