Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lodi Station Outlets: A Real Departure

When I first started shopping at what is now Lodi Station Outlets, it was just another outlet mall. It had the standard assortment of stores and a food court. Then a few years ago, it underwent a rebranding and a transformation. It went from being an outlet mall to being a shopping experience. Where once were just walkways and grass, now there are train tracks and trains. They used the names of historic local train stations to name the stations on the Lodi Line. Part of their goal was to help preserve the heritage of Ohio's rich train history. You can read more about their stations here.

I was first drawn to the (now) Lodi Station Outlets when I was expecting my son. I liked the outlet malls over the regular mall for a few reasons.

First, many of the stores feature outlet pricing. I say many, because there are quite a few stores that now actually manufacture a separate line for their outlet stores. They sell those along with some items from their regular stores. Some of these items are a good value and others are not much different than what you find at a sale in a regular store. When I was a kid, I can remember that going to outlet stores (not conveniently grouped in malls) meant that you had to dig through stacks of clothing and products to find your size and then you had to inspect it because what was sold at outlets was a mix of seconds and last seasons products. Sometimes those seconds were missing buttons (easy to correct) or had a bad zipper (not so easy for me to correct), sometimes the fabric was cut at a strange angle or seams were twisted, sometimes there were holes or other defects, but you generally could get amazing deals. Many of the outlet stores (now conveniently grouped in a mall setting) still offer great deals, but they are mixed with these separate lines that are not always as deep of a discount.

Second, I liked that they featured many unique stores that I couldn't find at other locations. Stores like Carter's and OshKosh B'Gosh. Sure I could buy Carter's or OshKosh B'Gosh clothing at many retailers, but this was the only place where I could go and purchase from their full line. I could buy this seasons clothes discounted slightly from regular price or comparable to sales at other retailers, but I could also pick up clothes from last season (or even last year) at a significant discount. Couple that with the coupons that are provided by many outlet stores, when you sign up with your e-mail, and I could get some great values.

Third, I liked that I could park relatively close to the store(s) that I wanted to shop at and could quickly get in and out of the outlet mall, as compared to the regular mall where the stores I wanted always were scattered about and I had to walk a good distance from where I parked to the stores. To that end, Lodi Station Outlets is well arranged in my opinion. The Children's Place, Gymboree, Carter's and OshKosh B'Gosh are all practically in neighboring store fronts and across the walkway you can find Motherhood Maternity. Love that!

The addition of the train and train rides to Lodi Station Outlets was a win/win opportunity from my perspective as a mom. Having something fun like a train ride to help incentivize the children to come shopping with me, to listen, to stay close and allow me to have them try on clothes is a great thing. As we move from store to store, the kids are always excited to catch a glimpse of the train driving past. There is just something so magical about watching trains, and having them full of waving passengers adds to the fun. Then, at the end of our shopping, assuming everyone behaved, we can all climb aboard for a trip through and around the outlets. The only drawback is that even when I just need to stop by to pick up something quick, they still want to ride the train. Of course, seeing their mascot Chugga Chugga Charlie is another thing my kids look forward too. They like to see him, but getting them to do more than wave can be a challenge.
The outlets also feature a playground for the kids, and an adjacent amphitheater. You can even host your child's birthday party at Lodi Station Outlets. For your party, you get the use of a party room, goodie bags for the guests and can select from several Lodi Station Outlet Food Court vendors for the lunch. The birthday child even gets to be the train engineer as the party guests take a train ride.

I will admit that until recently, most of my outlet shopping at Lodi Station Outlets was for my kids. Then, I left the expectant mom/children row of stores and explored the other rows of stores at the outlet. They have a lot to offer. I have gotten many great deals on shoes and clothes for myself. It is difficult to get to spend time shopping in stores for me, but with the train ride as incentive, I can do it!

Yesterday, the family and I had the opportunity to visit and explore Lodi Station Outlets as part of their VIP Blogger Day.

We started our day by enjoying lunch at their own Steam Cafe. The Steam Cafe serves an assortment of sandwiches and salads, a daily special and of course, a full offering of smoothies and coffee drinks. My son and husband each enjoyed a turkey sandwich with a pickle and chips and a cup of MelloYellow (it seems like a treat when you find a restaurant that serves MelloYellow). My daughter made a departure from the menu and ordered a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich. It came with chips and fruit snacks. I tried one of their specials, the Summer Plate. It came with three scoops of my choice of egg salad, chicken salad, tuna salad and cottage cheese, as well as lettuce, tomato, a hard-boiled egg and some saltine crackers.

After enjoying our lunch, we got set up with Premiere Passes. These passes, available for purchase, allow you to ride the train on each visit for a year. Train tickets are $3.50 for a ride all day pass on the weekdays. On weekdays, the train makes stops at all of the stations throughout the Outlets and riders can hop off and on at these stops. Tickets are $3 on the weekend for a round-trip ticket and are for a specific departure time. On the weekends, the train does not stop at the stations, other than Central Station, but rather makes an approximately 15 minute loop through and around the Outlets.

Then, it was off to shop. I had a quickly compiled list of some things that I wanted to look for - some of which, I wasn't sure I would find, but gave it a shot.

We stopped first at the Crazy For Scrapbooks store looking for Googly Eyes for my daughter's latest craft project. They have a wide assortment of scrapbooking supplies, but only one kit that contained Googly Eyes and since we didn't need all of the extras, we decided to skip it.

Then, it was off to the kitchen store. I had a covered cake pan that I had thrown out just that morning, as it had started to rust and was leaving rust marks on the other dishes in my strainer. I was able to find exactly what I was looking for and for only $5.29 with tax.

Next stop was to The Children's Place. This is one of my favorite stores. They generally have a wide selection and offer good discounts on the clothes that they have. I have signed up for their e-mails and regularly get coupons in my e-mail. Today, I was shopping with an additional 20% off coupon. I was able to get two pairs of jeans, a t-shirt and shorts for my daughter and a pair of shorts and two shirts for my son. In total, we spent $37.43 with tax. Not too bad for seven pieces of clothing!

Next, it was into Carter's. We were shopping for a baby gift and quickly found some cute pants and a monkey shirt. While in the store, we ventured back to check out their clothes for older kids and found a shirt for my daughter. Here, our total was $17.01 with tax.

We perused a few stores like Reebok and Adidas, while my husband looked to see if they had anything for him. He liked a few shirts, but didn't find one in the size/fit that he was looking for.

Our next stop was at the VF outlets, my daughter and I heading to the women's store and my husband and son to the men's store. He didn't find anything, but I picked up a pair of slacks, a pair of capris and three pairs of black socks. There was a $5/$35 coupon in the Lodi Station Paper, so my total wound up at $33.88 after coupon.

Next, we stopped at one of their newer (at least to me) stores, 4th and Goal. This store carries a selection of sports memorabilia and team gear. We watched a replay of Derek Jeter's 3000 hit on their TV and then picked up two pairs of Yankees socks, one for each child and my husband grabbed a 1991 Classic MLB Trivia Board Game. Here we spent $8.50 with tax.

Our next stop was at the Black and Decker Outlet, another relatively new store to the Lodi Station Outlets. This store featured a wide selection of household appliances (toaster ovens, coffee makers, dust busters), yard tools and tools. My husband was able to pick up a Refurbished Cordless Trimmer for only $30, after 10% off coupon from the Lodi Station Paper. According to the staff, the refurbished products could have a different color plastic or could have been sent back to the factory for a missing part. They even carry a full 2 year warranty. My husband commented that he felt the prices in this store were very reasonable and that he would come back when he needed tools.

At that point, we were shopped out. The kids were anxious to ride the train, so we dropped off all of our goodies in our car and headed back to the Food Court and Central Station. We boarded the train and enjoyed the relaxing 15 minute train ride through the Outlet property. After our train ride, we headed over to Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for some ice cream to cap the day.

Thanks to Nichole and Lodi Station Outlets for inviting us to participate in the Lodi Station VIP Blogger Day. We had a great time and were able to find some great deals.

Here is what we got while shopping on Saturday, minus the trimmer:
I am ready to return and do some more shopping. The kids are ready to go back and ride the train anytime that we are ready to take them. Imagine that, my kids asking me to take them shopping (well sort of)!

No compensation was received for this post. As an invitee to the Lodi Station VIP Blogger Day, we were received a $100 gift card to shop at and experience the mall, vouchers for free lunch and ice cream, complimentary train tickets and a Premiere Pass good through 2012, and a bag with goodies and coupons from many of the stores at Lodi Station Outlets. All opinions expressed are mine or those of my family.