So-called factory outlet malls can be disappointing and disorienting. Sometimes the prices are no cheaper than sale items at their non-outlet counterparts. And you're expected

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Finding the Right Outlet

Try racing around Auburn for some below-retail rewards.

So-called factory outlet malls can be disappointing and disorienting. Sometimes the prices are no cheaper than sale items at their non-outlet counterparts. And you're expected to travel miles out of town to a highway-side shopping complex without so much as a food court for these mediocre prices? You have to work your way through messy clearance racks—a blur of unwanted, shapeless clothing with disorienting layers of bright orange price tags—without the promise of a warm, post-spree Cinnabon. Luckily, outlet malls aren't all bad. Take Auburn's SuperMall of the Great Northwest. Its name may be grandiose, but as outlet malls go, it's the cream of the crop. It's even indoors, for chrissakes, a concept other outlet malls haven't grasped.

And let this South County native tell you a little secret: People south of Seattle don't pay full price for anything. So rest assured you'll find some deals at the SuperMall.

It's huge. It has 130 stores and 20 food vendors—including a Cinnabon that offers properly sweet and greasy shopping fuel. And it's all organized in a convenient oval, like nearby Emerald Downs. But be forewarned: The SuperMall gets crowded around the holidays, and there's nothing pretty about a bunch of women fighting over Mikasa's last Waterford vase. Leave yourself plenty of time—there's something satisfying about making it all the way around the elliptical racetrack that is the SuperMall. Having the mall close when you're only halfway around is sadly defeating, like not reaching the finish line. Your best bet is to go on a weekday, during the day (surprise). Beyond that, may your deity help you, and remember, Christmas is just around the corner—a little elbow never hurt anyone. Taking the bus? From Seattle, catch the 194 or the 150 and transfer to the 181 at the Federal Way Transit Center or Auburn Transit Center, respectively.

Here's a taste of what you can expect:

Clothing

Between the Kenneth Cole, Donna Karan, Ann Taylor, and Banana Republic outlets, you can please the corporate slaves on your list.

Recent finds: Banana Republic women's lambswool sweater, $21 ($49-$78 at the downtown BR); BR men's cotton chunky turtleneck sweater, $21 (regularly $59.50).

If your loved ones are more casual Friday than black tie, try Eddie Bauer, the Gap, or Old Navy (the latter isn't an outlet store but is priced like one).

Recent finds: Gap women's flare or bootcut jeans, two pair for $37.50 ($40-$50 each at the regular Gap).

Shoes

The SuperMall's got 16(!) shoe stores.

Recent find: Brooks Outlet, Brooks men's and women's Vapor running shoe, $24.99 (suggested retail: $70).

Books, Music, Toys, Video Games

You're covered, 11 times over.

Recent find: The Book Warehouse, Emeril's There's a Chef in My Soup! Recipes for the Kid in Everyone, by Emeril Lagasse, $8 (list price: $22.99).

Anchor Stores

Nordstrom Rack, Bed Bath & Beyond, Gart Sports, the list goes on.

Recent finds: Gart Sports, New Balance 601 men's trail-running shoe, two pairs for $105 (suggested retail: $70/pair); Gart Sports, Wilson ProStaff 11-piece golf set, $299.99 (suggested retail: $399.99). kmillbauer@seattleweekly.com

SUPERMALL OF THE GREAT NORTHWEST

1101 SuperMall Way, AUBURN 800-729-8258, www.supermall.com

 
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