Shop till you drop on your next Anna Maria Island Vacation! Some of my favorite shopping is done on my visits to Anna Maria Island. Not only is their excellent shopping on Bridge Street or Pine Avenue but you can venture a short distance from Anna Maria Island for even more excellent shopping options. There are numerous boutique shopping options in the Village of the Arts, St. Armands Circle or Lakewood Ranch. For more name brand or higher end shopping you can venture to Ellenton Premium Outlets to score yourself a deal. The Mall at University Town Centre is a quick 20 minute drive off the island and has recently been updated with many upscale stores and a delicious food court. I rounded up these great tips from The Money Crashers Wesbite to help you score the best deals possible on your next shopping trip in paradise!
Get the Inside Scoop Before I visit an outlet mall, I always view its website. By doing so, you can see which stores have promotions and sales, and even download online coupons. If there is no website for the outlet mall you plan to visit, or you don’t find any coupons online, stop first at customer service, where you may find coupon books and information sheets. You can also join outlet mall loyalty programs to receive things like points for purchases, exclusive coupons, and notifications of sale dates.
Set a Shopping Budget If you go shopping without a budget, you’re bound to spend more than you’d like as you’re lured into store after store. Because outlet malls usually have plenty to choose from, I rarely set a store-to-store budget. However, before you head out for the day, make sure you have a “cap” on how much you plan to spend. A surefire way to stay within your limits is to withdraw the amount you plan to spend in cash, and when it’s gone, stop shopping and go home. If you’re nervous about carrying that much cash with you, you can load up with the same amount and still stay within your budget for the day.
Check Prices Online The folks who operate outlet stores are masters of enticing customers to spend. They know that outlet mall shoppers are looking for good deals and are more likely to buy something if it’s marked down – so they often proclaim sales, even when prices aren’t deeply discounted. Before you snatch up that scarf or purse, try scanning the bar code with a ShopSavvy or RedLaser. Both check prices for the store you’re in, nearby brick-and-mortar stores, and to make sure you’re getting the best deal – with or without the giant sales tag.
Shop Close to Home There’s a reason outlet stores are usually found off the beaten path and away from metropolitan areas: They need a lot of space, and land is cheaper in the boonies. However, there’s also another reason that outlet mall owners don’t mind building away from large cities: Shoppers are more inclined to “make a day of it” when the stores are an hour or so away. When you shop farther away from your home or hotel, you may feel more pressure to get your money’s worth and spend a lot on deals you feel you can’t get anywhere else. I was surprised to see how much my shopping habits changed when a new outlet mall opened closer to my home. Previously, when the closest one was 90 miles away, I’d stay all day and spend like crazy to make it worth my while. This year a new outlet mall opened just 30 miles from my home, and I feel much less pressure to spend because I can go back anytime I want. Therefore, I don’t blow my entire budget in one trip. The moral of the story is, when it comes to outlet shopping, the closer to home, the better.
Go for Major Sale Weekends One way to make sure you get the most out of your outlet mall experience is to plan your shopping trips around popular holiday sales. Because of stiff competition against regular malls and other stores within the outlet mall for your foot traffic, they’re prone to give steep discounts, release coupons, and bring in new stock for the masses. Some of the best weekends to shop include the following: • Memorial Day weekend • The Fourth of July • Labor Day weekend (especially for back-to-school specials) • The weekend after Thanksgiving You’re likely to see busy crowds around holiday weekends, but that’s easily compensated for by the discounts.
Use Coupons With Caution There’s nothing like getting an additional price reduction on an item that’s already on sale. Just use coupons carefully when at the outlet mall. Sometimes, what you think is a coupon to Gap Outlet is actually a coupon to Gap, an entirely different store. Usually, if the brand has both outlet and regular stores, the coupon must say “outlet” or “factory” somewhere to be eligible for use at the outlet mall. Still, it never hurts to ask whether or not a coupon is valid, especially if there’s potential for added savings. If you’re a member of an outlet mall loyalty program, you can receive coupons via email or home postal mail. Just be sure to check the dates so you only shop when they’re valid.
Dig for Clearance Deals Like their regular retail counterparts, outlet stores are laid out for maximum customer spending. That means more expensive and full-priced goods are at the front, while clearance and more heavily discounted deals are in the back. Plan enough time to really dig through the merchandise and you can score the best bargains. Don’t be afraid to make a beeline for the clearance racks, and check for additional discounts on top of closeout products. Of course, it never hurts to ask a sales associate about current deals – they’re usually happy to point the way to any promotions.
Check the Return Policy While you’re hemming and hawing over that sweater, it’s a good time to ask a sales associate about the store’s return policy. Outlet stores often have limited return policies, and some items may actually be final sale – which might affect your decision whether to make certain purchases. Proximity of the outlet mall to your home is another factor to consider when contemplating returning items. If you’re traveling or visiting from another city, the chances of you actually getting back there before the return policy window is up are pretty slim.