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San Francisco`s Factory Outlets and Off-Price Stores

Covering South of Market (SOMA), parts of the Mission and Potrero districts, and surrounding areas

The glory days of SOMA shopping are a thing of the past, but, fortunately, there are still some important outlets, and a few new outlets have opened. The biggest problem confronting SOMA shoppers is the dearth of parking. In the past few years, the area has been transformed into "media gulch" with the explosion of high-tech companies and pricey residential lofts proliferating in buildings formerly occupied by garment factories and small warehouse operations. The opening of the Pac Bell Stadium only compounds the parking problem. Your best bet is to shop on Saturdays (except Game Days) or be prepared to vigilantly feed the meters (metermaids will cut you no slack) or pay the high rates at parking lots. Call before making a long drive to visit any of these outlets. I wouldn't bet the farm that any of these outlets will survive the upheavals caused by new construction and freeway retrofitting scheduled to go on endlessly into the future.

Factory outlets: Many of the stores listed here and throughout the Apparel/Fashion chapter are factory stores or factory outlets, typically owned and operated by clothing manufacturers or importers, and often located on or near the manufacturers' plants. Some offer little in the way of retail store amenities; others have gone high tech. Some may not take credit cards, have unconventional hours, or have difficult parking resulting in very limited hours of operation. Be sure to call ahead to verify hours and addresses. I've noted in parentheses which stores are factory outlets.

 

BYER FACTORY OUTLET (FACTORY OUTLET)

1300 Bryant Street, San Francisco.

(415) 626-1228. W-Sat 10-5. MC, VISA. Parking: lot.

(Other outlets: BFO/Byer Factory Outlet, Mervyn's Plaza, Santa Clara; Great Mall, Milpitas.)

Byer California manages to satisfy legions of budget shoppers, many of whom consider regular pilgrimages to its factory stores a must—most prices at $8 to $49 are too hard for teens and their moms to resist! At the outlet, discounts are usually 40-60% off original retail. These aren't seconds but first quality. Younger working gals stretch dollars on blouses, pants, and sophisticated coordinates or dresses; they can save on a New Year's Eve knockout prior to the holidays. Byer offers modestly priced lines of Junior, Misses, and Petite dresses and related sets, jackets, and sportswear (sizes 3-18); Large fashions (1X-3X); and Girls sportswear and dresses (4-6X and 7-14). Some of the labels you'll recognize: A. Byer, Byer Too, Byer Studio, AGB, and Amy Too Amy. The Santa Clara and Milpitas outlets are posh compared to the San Francisco store and have a nicer selection and more current fashions. No returns or exchanges are allowed in San Francisco; 15-day exchange in Santa Clara and Milpitas.

 

CHRISTINE FOLEY (FACTORY OUTLET)

430 Ninth Street, San Francisco.

(415) 621-5212. www.christinefoley.com. M-Sat 10-4. MC, VISA. Parking: street.

Christine Foley's hand-loomed 100% cotton sweaters are very special, offering whimsical designs, bold colors, and real originality. Most styles can be worn by girls or boys, women or men. They're not cheap, and you're likely to find them in elegant department stores or boutiques. This colorful little outlet disposes of discontinued styles, color imperfections, and seconds. Prepare for the prices. Wholesale prices on children's sweaters (sizes 2-12) range from $60 to $88; adult sweaters (S, M, L) range from $138 to $166. Retail prices are at least double. Seconds are reduced the most, up to 70% off retail; stickers reveal the defects.

 

CUT LOOSE FACTORY OUTLET (FACTORY OUTLET)

690 Third Street, San Francisco.

(415) 495-4581. M-Sat 10-5:30, Sun Noon-5. MC, VISA. Parking: street.

(Factory warehouse sales first Thursday and Friday each month: 1780 Armstrong Avenue, San Francisco.)

You can have it two ways here: shop at the main outlet for 50% savings and more on past- and current-season overruns, or wait for the factory warehouse sales, when seconds are sold at truly skinflint prices. Cut Loose offers upscale designs for weekday and weekend wear, garment-dyed separates in distinctive fabrics—textured cottons, crinkled rayons, washed linens, corduroys, silk-like bembergs—and a wonderful variety of solid colors. Prices range from $6 to $65 on separates: pleated pants, leggings, assorted blouse and top styles, skirts (straight, full, short, long), and many styles of jackets—short and long to dramatic oversized jackets. The cut is generous on most styles—perfect for less-than-perfect bodies. Keep it simple and basic, or show your fashion savvy by choosing from sophisticated separates. Sizes: XS-XL; Plus sizes 1X-3X. If you're on the mailing list, you won't miss out on any sale opportunity at either site. Note: Cash only at factory sales.

 

ESPRIT FACTORY OUTLET (FACTORY STORE)

499 Illinois Street (at 16th Street), San Francisco.

(415) 957-2550. M-F 10-8, Sat 10-7, Sun 11-5. Hours subject to change during special sales and holiday season. MC, VISA, AE, DIS. Parking: free lot.

(Other outlets: Gilroy, Napa centers.)

The Esprit Outlet is more than an outlet, it's a major tourist attraction. Whatever your age, Esprit can cover you from head to toe. The outlet sells seasonal overruns, returns, and samples. Its shoe department is very popular. If you find the outlet prices still too steep, your best strategy is to wait for the fabulous sales, when prices may be reduced an additional 30-40% off the lowest marked price. Otherwise, check the bargain bins in the back. You'll find everything Esprit, including the Dr. Seuss collection for children and adults. Outdoor types can check the bargains on high-end, high-tech outdoor apparel, backpacks, sleeping bags, and gear from Esprit's subsidiary, Moonstone Mountain Equipment. Sizes range from Infant 12mos to Toddler 36mos (boys, too) up to Junior 13/14 and Women's. Exchanges with receipt, within 14 days of purchase, for merchandise credit good for one year. Call for special sales and directions.

 

GEORGIOU FACTORY OUTLET (FACTORY OUTLET)

925 Bryant Street (bet. Seventh and Eighth streets), San Francisco.

(415) 554-0150. M-Sat 10-6:30. Sun Noon-5. MC, VISA, AE, DIS. Parking: private rear lot, enter on Langston (alley next to store).

(Other outlets: 579 Bridgeway, Sausalito; Milpitas, Vacaville centers.)

If you're dazzled by Georgiou's fashions, you'll be thrilled with its outlet's past-season overruns, overstocks, and missed shipments, and you'll probably get a buzz buying the "old stuff" on $1 to $9 racks. All Georgiou's fashions are made of natural fibers: wool, cashmere blends, silk, linen, rayon, and cotton, with each new color and print designed to coordinate with existing colors in its line. You can build a wardrobe of career separates piece by piece. Most styles qualify as contemporary classics—they'll remain au courant for seasons to come. Younger women especially love the detailing, buttons, and figure-flattering fit on many of the career suits. Holiday suits, ensembles, and dresses have real pizzazz. The colorful and fun cruise, leisure, and resort lines made from 100% cotton will survive many fashion seasons. Misses sizes 4-16. Prices are 50-80% off retail. Georgiou accessories at discount prices are just what you need to pull your outfit together. The outlet has a high-tech look, wonderful lighting, and an accom-modating staff. Ask for a Club Georgiou card (for extra discounts) and don't miss Georgiou's special sales—one of my best buys in 1999 was a $280 dressy chic little suit marked down to $59. Wow!

 

ISDA & CO. OUTLET (FACTORY OUTLET)

29 South Park (bet. Bryant and Brannan, Second and Third streets), San Francisco.

(415) 512-1610. M-Sat 10-5:30. MC, VISA. Parking: street.

Isda & Co. offers something that is often difficult to find when shopping South of Market: better quality and sophisticated styles for upscale shoppers. It has earned a Golden Shears Award and many articles in the fashion press with its clean, chic, well-tailored designs for women who have grown up and want high-quality clothes at affordable prices. If you admire the Donna Karan line, you'll surely love Isda's designs. You can create your own ensemble from related separates: Combine a skirt (short or long), walking shorts, or pants with vest tops or hip-length, slimming jackets. You'll find elegant mercerized cotton knit T-shirts and fine-gauge mercerized sweater knits and vests. These tops are soft and lustrous and look very expensive. The fabrics are the best: quality rayon suitings, tropical weight wool, 100% cotton (in sophisticated white blouses), and rayon/ linen blends. At the outlet, past-season groups are at least 50% off retail. That translates to about $146 for a jacket, about $70 for pants, or about $56 for a skirt, with even greater markdowns on way-past-season styles. It may become more difficult to create ensembles as the season progresses and styles sell out. Women's sizes: 2-14 or S, M, L. Guys need to come in and check out the new line for men that conveys a very San Francisco image for dress Fridays or dining out on Saturday nights. Like the women's collections, great fabrics are the foundation of the line. Loved the men's sweater collection!

 

JEREMYS

2 South Park, San Francisco.

(415) 882-4929. M-F 11-7, Sat 11-6, Sun 11-5. MC, VISA, AE. Parking: street.

(Other store: 2967 College Avenue, Berkeley.)

Jeremy, the hip young owner of this SOMA media-gulch lunchtime gathering place for fashion guys and gals, knows his customers. He buys popular lines of women's and men's contemporary sports-wear from status stores in New York. The labels will leave you agog! Some of these fashions are slightly irregular, some have been repaired (broken zippers, popped seams, missing buttons), but no one seems to mind. The men's department serves guys who want good deals on casual weekend separates, great ties, Saturday night out-to-dinner clothes, and trendier sportcoats and suits. The women's lines appeal to ladies who frequent contemporary sportswear departments of major stores or specialty shops. There's usually a collection or two that's just right for the partying crowd and the SOMA club scene. Prices are generally 40-60% off original retail and often more (I spotted one status designer men's suit marked down from $1,800 to $425). Women's sizes 4-14. The College Avenue location is classy too, to fit in with the Elmwood shopping district. Finally, Jeremys allows exchanges for store credit.

 

MARGUERITE RUBEL RAINCOATS/JACKETS (FACTORY OUTLET)

543 Howard Street, 2nd Floor, San Francisco.

(415) 362-2626. www.rubel.citysearch.com. M-F 7-5, Sat 7-11:30. MC, VISA. Parking: street.

Marguerite Rubel can be unnerving for first-time shoppers; she is refreshingly honest, painfully direct at times, and altogether something of a character. Once you get past her gruff demeanor, you'll end up firm friends. Her World Map jackets worn by Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and Bill Clinton have garnered exceptional publicity. She enjoys a good reputation for the classic and inno-vative styling of her raincoats, blazers, jackets, coats, and sportswear. Velvets have always been a part of her line, and she keeps up-to-date by including poplins, silk-like polyesters, and other fabrics. Recently, her best-selling styles have included updated golf, tennis, or weekend jackets, some with appliques or patchwork utilizing 200 squares in each jacket. Some of the inventory appears to have been around since the beginning of time, but retro-fashion buyers love it. You'll find many one-of-a-kind jackets, coats, and overruns from her sportswear. It's a grab bag of fashions with some real treasures; if you've ever wanted a dramatic velvet cape or wrap, this is your place. You can expect 40-50% savings, but not Nordstrom's service, and you're in for a scold if you don't handle the fashions with care. Quilters note: Velvet scraps are sold in dozens of colors at $3/pound, with a 10-pound minimum. Some fun trimmings too!

 

A MOTION STUDIO (FACTORY OUTLET)

440 Brannan Street, San Francisco.

(415) 957-1411. M-F 11-6, Sat 11-4. MC. VISA. Parking: street.

If you're reconnoitering South of Market, you're likely to spot A Motion Studio, an outlet that may strike the staid and conventional shopper as bewildering. Yet, it's in sync with the urban hip, media-gulch crowd doing business in SOMA. The racks in this small outlet are filled with sports-wear samples and (sometimes) cutting edge experimental fashions for men and women. Many outlet fashions result from the company's primary business as a product developer/pattern and sample maker for designers and companies-many that have glamorous appellations. Prices are generally at a wholesale level. To experience this outlet in its hippest element, stop in and unwind after work the third Friday of every month for an evening of cool music, snacks, wine, and a buy-and-browse sortie through the racks of the month's new fashions. Count on sportswear with an edge or retro influence—body-conscious silhouettes on women's sportswear, maybe some $29 keep-warm-and-cozy Sherpa fleece tops, a '50s retro simply styled mechanics jacket for $70, men's sport shirts at $32, or $65 on a wear-any-where Taslan fiber totally reversible zip jacket. A Motion Studio outlet is bound to be a hit with guys who never wear ties and women who wear cargo pants; in other words, urban individualists rather than mainstream fashion clones.

 

SIRI (FACTORY OUTLET)

540-D Barneveld Avenue, San Francisco.

(415) 431-8873. M-F 10-5, Sat by appointment. MC, VISA. Parking: street.

An out-of-the way location (behind Goodman Lumber) for an out-of-the-ordinary collection of feminine fashions. Siri's fashion studio is a combi-nation retail boutique and outlet. Her elegant collection of daytime and special occasion dresses is sold to status stores and boutiques. Prices on dresses range from $150 to $500. The styles are timeless and classic, yet offer originality for those who don't want to look like department store clones. Women in their twenties, thirties, and forties are prime targets for this sophisticated line. Beautiful fabrics (many designed in-house), interesting textures, and distinctive colors are hallmarks of each collection. Expect savings of 50-75% off retail on past-season styles (many one-of-a-kind beauties). Sign up for sale flyers announcing quarterly "clear the racks" sales when prices take a submarine dive. Sizes 2-12.

 

SUSAN LAWRENCE

119 Sacramento Street, San Francisco.

(415) 399-0222. M-F 10-6, Sat 11-5. MC, VISA, DIS, AE. Parking: pay lots.

Executive women from the Financial District, their assistants, and recent college grads come here for the suits, dresses, and blouses that their jobs require, finding premium lines that are sold con-currently in downtown status stores. The more traditional labels include Jones New York, Evan Picone, Tahari, and Donna Ricco, starting at $169. Contemporary suits and dresses with European styling (fitted jackets and shorter yet businesslike skirts) from Expressions, Sunny Names, Ice Cube, View, Style, Mystery, Rina Rossi, and others are priced from $149 to $199. Pantsuits are back in the workplace in both contemporary and missy styles starting at $149, also lots of new business casual sets. Susan Lawrence offers discounts ranging from a modest 20% up to 35% (average about 25%). Sizes: 2-16. Alterations can be provided in-store. This shop offers a winning combination: good prices and professional and personal service.

 

WESTON WEAR BOUTIQUE & OUTLET

3491 19th Street, San Francisco.

(415) 695-2869. www.westonwear.com. T-Sun 11-6. MC, VISA. Parking: street.

Weston Wear is innovative and sometimes strikingly avant-garde, but also practical and mainstream. Some dresses are high on the sex appeal quotient, perfect for women with a let's-have-fun attitude. Moms and daughters can enjoy exploring the racks; younger women will find festive Saturday night clothes (lots of slinky short dresses); mainstream moms can spruce up with contemporary separates or dresses. Many styles are body-hugging, figure-flattering designs—if you've got the figure. The fabrics are key to the line and fit—stretch knits with spandex or lycra, also slinky stretch velvets and laces, even sheer nylon mesh (with lining). The company's contemporary styling has made the cut and shows up at chic boutiques like Fred Segal in Santa Monica, and is worn by celebs on TV's Melrose Place, Beverly Hills 90210, and General Hospital. The company sells many of its styles under the private labels of department and specialty chain stores. Prices on current season collections are strictly retail—fortunately the $10 and $20 racks and $5 bargain bins will put new fashions in your closet for well below wholesale. These are discontinued styles, seconds, and samples. Expect to pay the going rate on vintage ceramics, purses, and on jewelry by local designers and others not so local. Sizes: 1,2,3 (fit 4-12). To be notified about the factory sales, call and have your name added to the outlet's mailing list. Postcards sent quarterly announce sale dates for three months at a time.

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