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BARGAINS / GERI COOK

Less Is More : Quality women's sportswear at a fraction of retail price makes this Thousand Oaks store a real find.

October 30, 1992|GERI COOK

A store has to have great labels and great prices to lure me from the Westside to just beyond the West Valley just to look for an outfit. But I recently discovered a spot in Thousand Oaks that is worth the drive.

Better Sportswear For Less is a bonanza for the fashion-conscious woman. Until recently, Better Sportswear was called Harpers, an outlet for designer labels that has been featured in this column. Dan Hechtman co-owned Harpers before buying out his partners. He changed the name and has added some new lines and sizes, including petite and large sizes.

Better Sportswear is almost an outlet store for the Modelle label, with about 20% of the inventory from that manufacturer. (A true factory outlet stocks at least 51% of the store inventory from one maker.) Price cuts on this line are dazzling. One great-looking suit that retails at several stores in town for around $700 was actually selling here for $150. A two-piece stirrup pants and blouse outfit slashed to $34 is carrying a hang tag in many stores that reads $114.

Other names on the racks--and at the same dazzling price cuts--are Kookia, Roger Bushard, Friction, Joan Walters and Brucinni. An Italian silk pants suit from Brucinni generally runs around $700 but the Better Sportswear price is a wonderful $225.

If you're into belts, head straight for the back wall, where there is the best selection of quality belts at rock-bottom prices that I have seen. All carry the Streets Ahead label and retail from $80 to $250. Hechtman buys the samples and the manufacturer's overruns--and buys so well that he can sell them for $10-$30 and still make a profit. Metal mesh belts that hark back to the '60s--very hot right now--wholesale for $118 a belt, but Hechtman's buying prowess enables him to sell them for $30.

The smart shopper should always ask: "How can they sell this for so much less?" Often, the merchandise comprises seconds, but that is not the story at Better Sportswear. Hechtman buys only first quality, buys in huge quantities and seems to be a sharp negotiator with excellent connections.

This is a large, bright and well-organized store. Parking is a breeze and the help all seem cheerful and knowledgeable. A definite plus is Linda Wilder, a fashion consultant, who is on hand from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays to assist with style and color coordination.

Where to Shop

Location: Better Sportswear For Less, 1625A Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks.

Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.

Cards: MasterCard/Visa, Discover.

Call: (805) 495-8344.

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