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SHOP TALK : Bargains Are in the Bag at Newly Opened Discount Mall : The 40 stores that make up this complex are diverse enough to satisfy even those known to shop until they drop.


Forget about all that negative stuff you've heard about outlet shopping--that the merchandise is last season's and the prices not low enough for savvy sale shoppers. We left the Oxnard Factory Outlet with a Cheshire cat's grin and a trunk full of shopping bags. (So many bags, in fact, we considered leaving them in the trunk until Mr. Shoptalk leaves for work.) But hey, we got deals!

The new Oxnard Factory Outlet has 40 outlet stores with many more, including a Gap Outlet, on the way. Shopping here is as cool and easy as the ocean breeze blowing through the parking lot, and the stores seem to be staffed mostly with helpful students from the nearby Cal Lutheran grad center. What a pleasant change from some of the cranky clerks we're used to.

One word of caution: Be sure to eat before you arrive. The food court is not yet open so we were forced to sustain ourselves with caramel covered candy apples from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory ($2.25 each with peanuts).

Here's a sample of some of the most exciting stores:

* Leon Max Outlet

Did we say outlet? This store looks just like one of the Leon Max ritzy retail shops found in upscale malls. The clothes are elegant contemporary separates, at mostly 30% off retail. The jewelry selection was pretty thrilling. Beaded necklaces, silver charms and earrings we haven't seen anywhere else in the county, and 50% off the regular prices. Don't miss the cotton and linen indigo-dyed sweaters.

* Benetton Outlet

Now this looks like the outlet stores we're used to. A bit of a mess, but the current 50% off the lowest ticketed price makes the picking through very rewarding. Although Benetton runs a controversial ad campaign, the clothes are anything but. Strictly Euro-prep, these Italian clothes are of high quality material and workmanship. We went straight to the back of the store to the children's department, loading up on exceptionally beautiful T-shirts (retail $29; now $7) and cotton sweaters (retail $49; now $12.50).

* Nine West Outlet

Here's another bright and well organized store with plenty of bargains. Our favorites were the au courant espadrilles (retail $40 and now $19.97) and the woven leather clogs (retail $48; now $14.97).

* The Kitchen Collection

We counted at least three kitchen shops, each one filled with delightful gadgets, gizmos and graters. The Kitchen Collection will special order accessories they don't carry and still deliver a discount. We brought home a cookie sheet that promises not to burn the cookies (and it was half price)!

* Francine Browner

At the back of this outlet store is a great selection of clothes by "Parallel." This is a line we usually drool over at Bullock's. We especially loved the gray linen apron dress (retail $189; now $65). The pleated rayon short skirt (retail $100; $35.99) is great for teen-age girls who want a killer back-to-school wardrobe.

* Welcome Home

This store is the gift shop no mall is ever without. July Christmas Shoppers take note. Buy one cotton afghan, the second is half price. And they are already a bargain at $19.99 to $39.99. Cotton napkins and place mats are good buys at 99 cents and $1.97.

* Designer Labels For Less

This is one of the bigger stores and it is filled with surprises. Carole Little is offered here, in fact, every line she produces from large to petite, to her new and hipper label, "Streetwear." Look for a rack of clothes by "Flax." These cotton and linen separates are a personal favorite.

We were really impressed with lingerie here. A large selection of perfectly organized bras and panties by Christian Dior and Lily of France are all 50% off retail.

* A&Y Leather and Accessories

This leather goods store has a very convincing selection of Coach knock-offs. A beautiful leather backpack by the Canadian "Sacha" was $89.99 from $189.99. There are leather organizers by DayRunner and Kenneth Cole for 30% to 40% off retail as well.


We could go on and on and on. This outlet mall is simply a blast. From large-size fashions to upscale audio equipment, this place has it all. We suggest quickly walking though each store, you never know what treats are hiding in the back. And be sure to choose carefully: Most stores have a no-return policy!

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