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Bedding Room

March 05, 1993|GERI COOK

Linens with ever-so-slight flaws come in tempting packages at Strouds Clearance Centers.

Whatever magic hardware stores hold for many men, white sales and linen outlets hold for many women. The mills have known this for a long time and package their irregulars to sell at bargain prices. Since the flaws in irregulars are so minute, it's difficult to resist these tempting deals. Usually the flaw is a slub, a slight twist of thread. Most discounters carry these packages, which is probably why so many people end up with oddball sheets and pillowcases.

Strouds, a linen chain with 48 locations in California and Nevada, seems to have enough clout with the mills to offer a broad inventory of first-quality linens, plus an in-depth selection of SI, or slightly irregular, bed linens in their six clearance centers.

There's hardly a major mill that is not represented on the shelves. Quality linens are the rule, not the exception. The higher the thread count, the stronger the fabric and, unlike most linen discounters, Strouds tries to buy nothing below 180-thread-count sheets and pillowcases.

Often, you will find an in-depth inventory of 310-thread-count items, all heavily discounted. For instance, a queen-size Charisma 310-count 100% Pima cotton sheet retails for $110, but the irregular is priced at $44.99.

Most of the inventory, however, is of first quality. The expert will recognize the Royal Ascot Chortex line of Egyptian cotton terry towels from England. Regularly, the bath size sells for $18 to $20, but at the clearance centers, the price is $9.99.

When readers call for a referral on down comforters, I always send them to the nearest Strouds Clearance Center because they only carry white goose down, which is the best, and all comforters are first quality--no irregulars.

A queen-size, white goose down, boxed-stitched comforter called Calais has a 230-thread-count cover, and a down weight of about 25 ounces. According to John Russell, a product coordinator of Strouds Clearance Centers, "I wouldn't recommend going for anything less than 25 ounces in a queen."

The retail price on the Calais is around $180 at many stores; at a Strouds Clearance Center, the tag is $69.99. Going up the scale, the queen Elbe, with a 254-thread-count cover and down content of about 32 ounces, sells for $139, instead of $350. At the top of the line is Vincent, with a 250-thread-count cover and down weight of about 48 ounces. Figure on saving $200 on this: Instead of $500, pay $299.99.

The selection of bedspreads is extensive and priced from $19.99 to $99. The prices reflect discounts that are 50% to 80% off retail. Look for names such as Crown Crafts, specializing in woven spreads; Springmaid, known for florals, and India Ink, a local manufacturer of hand-painted spreads. Check the comforter sets (a comforter, two pillow shams and a dust ruffle) from J. P. Stevens. The retail price on these is $169, but now they are on special for $99.

According to owner Bill Stroud, "Approximately 40% of the merchandise in our clearance centers is the result of special purchases we have made, and 60% represents transfers or markdowns from our 42 stores."

Strouds' regular stores discount 10% to 20% and carry designer names such as Bill Blass, Vittadini and Collier Campbell. These are seldom found in the clearance centers, but occasionally you'll find Laura Ashley and Esprit at heavily discounted prices.

Unlike the regular Strouds stores, the clearance centers take no custom or special orders. But I find the personnel just as helpful as in all locations, and the emphasis on quality is the same.

WHERE TO SHOP

What: Strouds Clearance Center.

Location: 3733 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover.

Call: (818) 351-9605. Or 1-(800) ASK STROUD for the location nearest you.

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