I Can Get It For You Retail

Renee Underwood recently took a day of her vacation to troll for bargains at two adjacent factory-outlet centers in San Marcos, Tex. But after six hours of wandering among the centers' 150 stores, the 38-year-old advertising executive left almost empty-handed. And one of the deals she thought she had snagged turned out not to be so great after all. Days after buying a $12 pair of Lee jean shorts from the VF shop, Underwood found the same item on sale at her local Mervyn's for $12.99--a better deal, she says, considering the 45-minute drive to the outlet centers. "I find if I shop smart at my local mall," says Underwood, "I can get better values."

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