Time was when outlet shopping meant digging through heaps of leftover merchandise in poorly lighted warehouses with names like World o' Discounts.
Not anymore. The factory outlet business is booming, with Gucci, Perry Ellis, Adrienne Vittadini and other manufacturers not usually associated with the word discount getting in on the act.
And where there is a boom, there follows a boomlet of guides promising to lead shoppers to the goods.
One such publication, "The Joy of Outlet Shopping," should be a staple for serious shoppers who do not blink at traveling hundreds of miles in search of a bargain.
The second edition of the 130-page booklet was published in mid-August and contains updated information on more than 250 factory-outlet shopping centers nationwide. That's 25 percent more than were listed in the first booklet, reflecting the phenomenal growth of outlet centers.
Publisher Terry Dunham and his staff checked out more than 1,000 discount operations and pared them down to a list of 357 outlet chains (totaling about 6,000 individual stores) that they determined to be true factory outlets -- in other words, stores that are owned and operated by the manufacturer. Most offer discounts of between 20 and 70 percent. A four-color map pinpoints the location of both existing and planned outlet centers.
Until 1988, outlet shopping was mainly relegated to the major manufacturing centers of the East, Mr. Dunham notes. Recently, however, both manufacturers and shopping-center developers have discovered there is a bonanza in outlet centers and, consequently, their numbers are growing.
California leads the country in the number of planned outlet centers. The booklet lists 15 centers due to open in the state between now and the end of 1991. Twelve factory outlets now are open for business.
To order the guide, send $4.95 to Joy, Box 7867, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33734.
Another new guide to the outlets, this one an 84-page, magazine-size book called "Outletbound's Guide to the Nation's Best Outlets," was published this summer. The guide contains a listing of 277 outlet centers housing a total of 4,500 manufacturer-owned stores around the country. It, too, contains maps and charts and enough information on where the buys are to send avid bargain hunters running off to such obscure locales as Boaz, Ala.; Pigeon Forge, Tenn.; and Monroe, Mich.
To order, call (800) 336-8853 or send $5.95 to Outletbound, P.O. Box 1255, Orange, Conn. 06477.
Shop-happy globe-trotters who are more likely to find themselves in Milan, Italy, or Lima, Peru, than Boaz or Pigeon Forge will get more mileage from the Savvy Shopper, a newsletter described as "an insider's guide to shopping around the world."
The newsletter includes features on domestic and international shopping venues, price-comparison charts for particular items and tips on how to cart it all back home.
A 12-month subscription costs $57. Sample copies are available for $5. To order, write Hammar Publications, 12 Rambling Road, Northport, N.Y. 11768.