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Coach Factory Store

To me, Coach is one of the few remaining retailers at which I am happy to shop. This is primarily due to their accessibility. They publish catalogs, maintain a beautiful website, and still more beautiful storefronts. Many department stores such as Nordstrom, Lord and Taylor, Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue also carry Coach lines, although I've noticed that the products tend to be still more expensive than if you had purchased them from Coach itself. Perhaps the crowning glory of all this consumerist madness, however, is the Coach Factory Store.

To the student with half a job and little to spend, the outlet is pretty dreamy. It's a true outlet, however, and finding the gems can be a bit of a challenge. The outlets take what the warehouses send them, and price them accordingly. All of the merchandise is either discontinued or imperfect, with the bags my mother and I love tending toward imperfect. However, if you could get a $268 bag for $120 and have it last only 19.5 years instead of 20, who cares?

At the Williamsburg IA outlet, I recently picked up discontinued hat for half price ($50) and was digging around for one of those Patricia's Legacy bags, but they were all pretty seriously imperfect. It's April, so all the winter scarves and hats were dirt cheap...a few winter styles and colors for bags here and there, a nastily off-color red bag that's been there since last August, all by itself. Then I saw, all by itself in the 50% shelf, a skinny-case (as Coach calls it - God only knows what you put in it, but supposedly you buy one and put in inside of your other, even more expensive, bag) in ugly giant red houndstooth. I pulled over the Lady, as I call her. Funny how I've carrying on lengthy conversations with this woman for the last two years, and I still don't know her name. I have bad manners. I asked her about that lonely red skinny-case.

"Oh, that went with a matching dog sweater and cell phone case. It's from last winter."

I can just see it now, old lady on Park Avenue with a Yorkshire terrier, talking on her phone the whole time. So now that ugly red houndstooth skinny-case will have to hang out with the off-color red bag in the other corner until Coach comes to their senses and puts that crap in the dumpster. But if you think about all the really bad Christmas gifts you ever gotten (how many people received musical ties, Big Mouth Billy Bass, etc., at some point in their lives?), just think: someone out there got a red houndstooth dog sweater. Perhaps with the cell phone case. Yippee.

The outlets tend to carry a very good selection of the accessories - all the keyfobs, picture frames (yes, leather), pet collars, coasters, wallets, etc. Bought my cat a red collar last year and he chewed through it. $30 cha-CHING! Holding the mangled leather in my hands, I was truly feeling the frivolity. You often find good luggage in the outlets (although I really wouldn't count on Coach for hard-core luggage purchases) and even a selection of leather coats or jackets. Beats hell out of Wilson's any day of the week.

If you're truly lucky and you live near Castle Rock, CO, or Orlando, FL, the Coach Factory Stores there carry shoes. Used to be the company stocked four different outlets with discontinued shoes, but it got to be a hassle keeping a decent stock of them. IMO, fall/early winter is the best time to shop for the shoes. The spring and summer lines tend to be more prolific, and, since the shoes are physically smaller than the loafers and boots which are traditionally featured in the winter lines, the prices are drastically lower.

The reason this outlet works is because the styles still have a classic element to them. With a few notable exceptions (toes on shoes got pointy a year or two ago, and Coach followed suit), I've noticed over the years that the spring lines are all very similar, the summer lines are all very similar, etc. It surprises me sometimes that walking down the street I can point out where most of the girls I see bought their clothes and when they bought them (not that any of us have much of choice where we shop unless we travel - it is Iowa after all). I can't do that "when" part often with Coach gear.

As I write this up, I am ogling "Trixie Ankle Strap Wedges" on the website and calculating how big my next paycheck would be. I'm so whipped.