SHOPTALK : Newest Wave of Outlet Stores : About 40 stores are expected to open within the month at the Camarillo factory center. Merchandise is up to 65% off retail prices.


Do you have your wallet--neatly lined with credit cards--waiting at the front door? Have you recently donated all your old clothing (i.e. anything pre-1995) to Goodwill? Did you change the message on your answering machine to say you're out on important business and won't be available for several days?

If so, you probably already are aware that the shops have begun to open at the Camarillo Factory Stores development, located off U.S. 101 between the Las Posas Road and Carmen Drive exits, next to the Edwards multiplex.

As of last Friday, 10 stores were in operation. A couple more opened earlier this week, and if all goes well, upward of 40 outlets should be up and running within the month.

The stores, as a whole, will offer merchandise up to about 65% off retail prices. When you consider that the Oxnard Factory Outlet is just minutes away, there has never been a better time to be a Ventura County bargain hunter.

"We believe there will be a significant number of shoppers coming to Camarillo who have never shopped in this part of the county before," said Carol Nordahl, executive director of the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce. "We also expect the factory outlets to help keep our own shoppers at home."

Nordahl said other Camarillo merchants will try to take advantage of the expected throngs. "We hope to get the shoppers to explore the rest of the town, the stores, the restaurants," she said. "The chamber has been working with the city to possibly prepare a shoppers guide."

The Camarillo Factory Stores project is owned and operated by Chelsea GCA Realty Inc., a leading developer of outlet centers throughout the country. Among the lineup of stores planned for the outlet center are Avia, Leather Loft, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Windsor Shirt Co., Mikasa, B.U.M. Equipment, the Book Warehouse, Nine West, Genuine Kids, OshKosh B'Gosh and Factory Brand Shoes.

Though some of the stores also have outlets at the Oxnard center, Nordahl doesn't see much of a rivalry. "Chelsea has followed the premise that they are offering different types of stores for a different target market," she said.

"We will have some brand names that are new to the area," said Susie Plummer, Chelsea's regional marketing manager. "It will be a more upscale mix."

We had to go see for ourselves. Last week we checked out some of the first stores to open. Here are a few highlights:

Bass: Women's jeans shorts were on sale for two for $35, instead of the usual retail price of $36 each.

Van Heusen: A women's cotton/polyester blend was $19.99, down from $30. A men's all-cotton polo shirt was $13.99, from $25.

Sunglass Hut International: This store carries various name brand sunglasses. Some Ray-Bans were knocked down 50% and some Serengetis were discounted 30%.

Jones New York: A women's wool jacket was priced at $141, down from a suggested retail price of $188. Certain items were also discounted by an additional 25%, 40%, or 50%, depending on the quantity purchased.

Le Gourmet Chef: If for no other reason, this store is worth a look because of its incredible selection of condiments and salad dressings. The store offers plenty of quality kitchenware and other food items too.

Maternity Works: This store sells various brands of maternity clothes. We saw some knit pants by Mimi Maternity going for $29, instead of the regular retail price of about $78.

Designer Fragrances: There are more than 400 brands of cologne and perfume at this store, advertised as costing up to 60% less than at department stores.

Levi's: We found a long-sleeved men's shirt for $19.99, instead of about $38. Irregular 501 jeans were marked at $27.99.

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