Favorite Places: The Magical Zappos Outlet Store
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Our weekend series, “Favorite Places,” features beloved travel destinations, attractions, restaurants, hotels and more from different members of the TPG team. TPG Contributor J. Keith van Straaaten gives us the lowdown on his favorite place to shop for travel-gear bargains — the Zappos.com/6pm.com outlet.
In the small city of Shepherdsville, Kentucky — fittingly set on Zappos.com Boulevard — is the Zappos.com/6pm.com Outlet Store, a magical source of massive discounts on all kinds of travel-friendly shoes and apparel, luggage and more. I always make a special trip here when I'm visiting family in Louisville, just 20 miles away.
But why has Las Vegas-based Zappos.com chosen the Louisville area for its outlet, you ask? Well, it could be Zappos's desire to be near Louisville's baseball museum and/or Ugandan cookie shop — but more likely, it's because Louisville is home to UPS' enormous shipping hub and brown-liveried airplanes.
See, Zappos has one of the best return policies in online retailing – up to 365 days from date of purchase with free return shipping – and they get a lot of returns. These items (and those purchased from their sister site, 6pm.com) have to go someplace, and their store in Shepherdsville sure is some place.
Though inventory turns over constantly, you're sure to see dozens of aisles' worth of shoes, racks upon racks of clothing and a few stacks of luggage – all bearing brand names. You'll also find shelves full of home goods, a smattering of pet supplies, always a selection of accessories (many of them ideal for travel) and jewelry. If it has a section on Zappos.com, it has a section here.
While the women's merchandise outweighs men's by about 10:1, I've been to the store at least five times and have come away empty-handed only once. While I usually leave with at least one pair of shoes, I've also gotten great deals on a wrinkle-resistant blazer, wool hiking socks, a baseball cap and a rolling duffel bag. The continual changeover of merchandise is great for discovering new finds and not-so-great for targeting a specific item. But this place is amazing if you enjoy the hunt of an unexpected bargain.
How much of a bargain? All the products are significantly marked down already and depending on the day you shop, they can be drastically reduced even more. Sometimes price tags with a certain color earn a further discount of 20%-70%, sometimes it's the entire store – and sometimes it's both, a stacked discount that gets you an item for mere pennies on the dollar.
The merchandise is surprisingly well-organized for a discount store (if you've ever shopped at a Marshalls or Ross, you'll know what I mean), though it still takes an intrepid spirit to see all there is to offer. For instance, if a carton of socks arrives in the middle of the day, it goes out carton-and-all for customer rummaging. And you'd be wise to keep an eye out for high shelves and tucked-away corners, as you'll sometimes find high-end items here, a fair distance from more run-of-the-mill brands.
The main downside of the store is that all sales are final — and they mean it. I learned this the hard way when I discovered that a beautiful pair of John Varvatos suede shoes I'd bought here (marked down from $250 to $60) had a tear in it that I hadn't noticed in the store. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of a deal and forget to calmly and carefully inspect each item before you buy — so I urge you to slow down and pay attention to the details.
Also be aware that there are only two small changing rooms, so if you're there on a weekend or around Thanksgiving or Christmas, you'll probably have to wait awhile to try on your clothing finds.
The good news? The store takes all major credit cards. Last time I was there, I was working on meeting the minimum spend on my new Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card to get its sign-up bonus, but I generally use the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which TPG himself recommends for everyday spending.
Whichever card you choose to use, I have a feeling that — with a wish-list in hand and some careful searching — the Zappos/6pm Outlet Store will become one of your favorite places, too. Happy holidays, and even happier shopping!
Love a good bargain on travel gear? Be sure to see these related posts:
Unclaimed Baggage Center: The Store for Lost Luggage
Top 8 Sites for Discounted Travel Gear
Ever been to the Zappos/6pm Outlet Store? Let us know in the comments below.
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