14 novembre 2005

New Jersey : a place to buy clothes

Je rappelle pour ceux qui ne sont pas au courant que dans le New Jersey, il n'y pas de taxe sur les vetements ! Ce qui les met systematiquement a 8.5% de moins qu'a NewYork. Si vous etes interesse(e)s par du shopping vestimentaire a moindre cout, voici la liste des malls et outlets de mon New Jersey natal :-D. http://zestive.com/shopmalls.htm . Que sont les outlets ? Voici un article de David Kushner que je viens de trouver sur le sujet.

The word “Outlet” has become a synonym for discount prices on trademark goods. Outlets are found all over the United States - you can barely miss the signs as you drive past any tourist area.. These “outlets” range from a cluster of shops bearing famous designer names or trademarks to entire towns like Freeport, Maine where all of Main Street has been converted into an “outlet center”. Freeport is particularly interesting because it is at the edge of the New England wilderness area, not far off the route many New Yorkers and Bostonians take to get into the New Hampshire camping and skiing resorts. Freeport specializes in sporting goods although there is a full roster of the less outdoorsy brands also represented. The town is renowned for having an entire LL Bean Department Store. For those of you who are not cognoscenti of outdoors Americana, LL Bean is one of the USA’s largest catalogue houses for camping and hunting paraphernalia. American outdoors types would rather be dead than permit their names to be removed from the LL Bean mailing list. Some actually buy at least one scratchy woolen shirt annually in order to keep themselves active. It is a well thumbed catalogue which usually lies on the living room coffee table with a half-smoked pipe on top. It is the mark of the man (forgive me ladies, I’ll get to you later).

The largest and possibly the only “real” outlet lies within a stone’s throw (figuratively speaking) of Manhattan. Most tourists are not even aware of it. It’s a hidden asset that most New Yorkers and Jerseyites (New Jersey, that is) keep to themselves. If you discover it, it is usually because a friend or member of your family takes you there. It lies in a place called by the old American Indian name of Secaucus just across the Hudson River from Manhattan. When I was a kid I remembered Secaucus as a marshland, an urban swamp used as a fill for garbage trucks from Newark, Hoboken and Union City - the cities that surrounded it. As my dad’s car emerged into the sunlight from the depths of the Lincoln Tunnel, we’d pass over the fringe of civilization that lived atop the huge cliff called “The Palisades” (which you can see from Manhattan if you happen to look across the river) and follow the highway that crossed the marshland beyond. In those days it usually stank. At that point we kids used to hold our noses say “phooey” and call New Jersey the “Garbage State” which was a mean play on its official byname “The Garden State”, proudly stamped on every New Jersey license plate.

Well, things have changed. Undoubtedly, enough garbage was eventually dumped to fill in the marshland so that the main street can now be called “Meadowland Parkway”. The only odors are expensive perfumes and their ilk, and that which is dumped in Secaucus, these days is mostly money. I should barely mention that the ol’ marsh is not very far way. A couple of summers ago we were caught there in midst of a major thundershower. The whole area flooded after an hour or so, the sewers and drains backed up and our borrowed Buick almost drowned.

Today the name “outlet center” is a bit of a misnomer. An “outlet” used to be the what was once known as “the factory store”. It was the place, usually behind the plant, where many firms making shoes, clothes or household products could get rid of surplus, unsold, out-of-season goods at a heavily discounted price to their employees, people from the local area or just folks looking for a bargain. These “factory outlets” became known to a wider and wider circle of bargain hunters and in the 1970’s people would travel miles out of their way to one or another of these outlets and spend a day outfitting an entire family with whatever was sold there. As the concept caught on, many factories saw these stores as a source of ready cash and other businessmen began to understand that there was a surplus of practically everything. They purchased these surplus goods ex-factory at heavily marked-down prices and sold them in their own shops for a discounted profit, thereby creating the illusion of an outlet store that was no longer a “factory outlet” but was offering the same benefits (bargain prices) just around the corner from the potential customer.

The New Jersey Outlet Center is one of the only “real” functioning outlets. It performs a specific commercial function in the New York area. The American fashion industry is pre-season oriented. In the winter, the following summer’s fashions are produced and subsequently presented to the buyers of the major department store chains. By March these are being delivered to the stores and after Easter the summer fashions are out on display. All these goods are previously delivered to warehouses in Secaucus. These act as receiving and distribution centers in the Metropolitan Area for their firms.

The area itself, just 7 miles due west of midtown Manhattan, looks like a large modern industrial park. The buildings are functional warehouse-like concrete boxes sometimes dominated by a show window on the ground floor (the symbolic remains of the “factory store”) interspersed with groups of authentic stores and boutiques. The names on these buildings are renowned internationally: Levi, Calvin Klein, Liz Claiborne, Gucci, Gant, Bally, and so on. Many of the clothes worn in the US today are not made in local factories or even in American factories - a good number are manufactured in places like Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and China. Secaucus is about as close to the factory as anyone is going to get without flying to Seoul or Shanghai.

These warehouses are where the unsold goods remain and where the department store chains return items because of warranty damages or errors. These goods are discounted from 40-60% of their original retail price. I sometimes get the feeling that the Secaucus outlets have become such big business that many of them don’t depend on returns or surplus goods any longer but order their own stock for direct sale. You might ask why don’t the department stores complain? The outlet gets away with it because they are currently selling in-season clothes whereas the department stores are already displaying next season’s fashions. So, if you visit Secaucus in the summer you will find summer clothes on the racks whereas Bloomingdales in Manhattan is already focusing on back-to-school and fall apparel.

You can certainly catch a bus to Secaucus but it would be wise to rent a car. The industrial park is so large, the various outlets so far apart, that just to get around on foot is a major effort. To lug shopping bags from one outlet to the other would certainly take any fun out of bargain hunting. If you can rent or borrow a car, the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel is just south of 42nd Street on the west side of midtown and well marked. There is no toll leaving Manhattan but there will be one (about $2-3) on the way back. Meadowlands Parkway is 4-5 miles from the tunnel exit and one of the first exits after passing under the New Jersey Turnpike. Follow Meadowlands Parkway until you come to a street called American Way (can’t forget that!). You’ll soon pass Gucci and London Fog (the U.S. answer to Britain’s Burberry) and turn left on Enterprise Ave just between Calvin Klein and Japan’s Mikasa. A bit further and you’ll end up in the parking lot of the Harmon Cove Outlet Center.

This is the closest thing to a mall in the NJOC and a good place to begin discovering the delights of Secaucus. At the entrances of the mall, you usually find stacks of magazine-like publications with such names as Secaucus Outlet Centre Map & Guide or, Secaucus Guide Book. These are sales catalogues and only list those firms which advertise in them. The best thing about them are the enclosed maps which will give you some concept of the way the outlet center is laid out. There are at least twice as many firms in the center than are listed in the publications, but these you’ll have to discover for yourself. In the mall you’ll find such firms as Gant, Evan-Picone, Bally Shoes, Champion-Hanes and one of the busiest sporting footwear stores on this earth. You’ll be lucky to find a place to sit down to try on a pair of name-brand jogging or aerobic shoes. You’ll stop complaining when you look at the price tag.

In this limited space I cannot take you everywhere in Secaucus (perhaps, I’ll leave that for another article) but I can recommend a few very popular outlets. The Levi outlet on Hartz Way where all jeans cost $20 (these are all non-returnable “irregulars” so look them over carefully for the reason they were rejected before buying and see if you can live with it); the Mikasa store on American Way where the porcelain and crystal is so beautiful that you wished you had an unlimited air baggage allowance; Liz Claiborne on Emerson Way (Look over the Liz Claiborne designs at NK because if you like her style, here is a hanger-size building filled with them). For men I recommend the Gant Store in the mall and for very elegant ladies wear, the Jones New York boutiques also on Hartz Way. Calvin Klein and Gucci, Charles Jourdan and Bally are names I don’t even have to mention, finding Dexter, Timberland and Topsider at the shoe outlets is also commonplace but be prepared to discover twenty other elegant designer outlets with brand names unheard of in Sweden. I will not bore you further. Be prepared to spend a day (or more) there, a few hours isn’t enough if you are doing some serious shopping.

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