Frugal Foo

Foo Thinking Money"Money can't buy me love"... But everything else is in this blog.

DFO South Wharf, Melbourne

DFO in Melbourne city is now harder to find, and bargains even harder.

A DFO (Direct Factory Outlet) conveniently located right in the middle of Melbourne CBD above a major rail and bus terminal was just too good to be true. Late last year DFO in Melbourne CBD moved away from the very central Spencer St address, to a previously unheard of location (unheard of to me) called "South Wharf".

Where is DFO South Wharf
Open 7 Days 10am-6pm and until 9pm Fridays

View DFO South Wharf in a larger map
TramCatch either the 70, 71 or 35 free city circle tram to the Docklands Park stop. Then walk 10 mins south across the Yarra and follow signs.
Car Park$4 per hour up to $28 daily. 50% parking discount if you buy from DFO and validate ticket. Frankly there are cheaper options in town if parking on a weekend.
Still within a 20 minute walk from Southern Cross Railway Station, I'm quite sure that fellow die hard bargain hunters will continue to make the extra effort and flock to the South Wharf DFO, just as we do now, travelling epic distances to either of the other two Melbourne DFO's situated in far flung locations around the suburbs.

DFO’s are generally a little more difficult to find compared to major shopping malls. They are the shy cousin of the retailer clan. At family gatherings, the shy cousin can be spotted at a measured distance away from the raucous centre of all the action, serving some useful self-appointed purpose, such as official photographer or plunger coffee operator. Likewise, DFO's around Australia are often found away from the main shopping and town centres, dressed down architecturally, and a little tricky to find.
DFO South Wharf
DFO South Wharf is no exception. It’s not as convenient to a railway station compared to its previous location, and driving will cost you in petrol, tolls and parking. So there is sunk cost before we even begin raking in the savings from factory outlet bargains. Being able bodied, and having an understanding of the city circle tram network, I chose to walk from the nearest free tram stop north of the Yarra River across Webb Bridge. From there it’s 10 minute walk across the river and following the signs to DFO. See the map at the end of this post.

Upon arrival I’m ready to shop. And having completed the epic journey to find the place, I expect some kind of worthwhile pay-off. I'm ready to buy something. Anything. Even if it's an irregular end of season man-purse, sporting a glitzy fashion logo and made by sewing together left over eye-patches from last years Pirate show-bag. DFO’s obscure location seems to be actually working in its favour judging from my must-buy-something frame of mind.

Perhaps it was naive of me to expect that the shelves would be lined with “reduced stock made up of discontinued lines, previous season’s stock, current end-of-season lines and special purchases” as described in DFO literature. Boy those silly clothing labels sure are making a lot of mistakes oversupplying their retail stores at start of season with such regular predictability that an expanding DFO industry can thrive season after season on surplus goods which could not be sold at retail prices mid season. Oh but there are those “special purchases”. I wonder what they are? Could it be that some lines are produced expressly for the purpose of stocking factory outlet shelves?

At this DFO, the shops look just like regular shops. Some of them reassuringly have the word “Outlet” somewhere in their signage above the door, but not all. The stock looks remarkably like that which I would find in any normal shop and the prices didn't seem cheap to me. And I do wonder what would be considered “last season” in camping gear, jewelery or home kitchen shops. Not wanting to expose my fallible credentials as a male here, but does jewelery have seasons?
Inside shot Factory Outlet
Still we press on hunting for bargains believing that somehow smiling approval will shine upon us from Livinia Nixon, the face of DFO, who does not seem to have aged one day since first appearing on our screens eating Maltesers 15 years ago. Perhaps I too can halt the aging process by shopping at DFO.

Myth: The amount of money we save is the amount discounted from the original full price.

Truth: Ignore discounts. A bargain means paying the lowest price compared to the price of similar alternatives available in other shops at that time.

At DFO I found a mix of both regular and discontinued lines. Signage at DFO shops boasted massive discounts when compared to a full retail price. I trust that the full comparison prices were once the actual asking price in shops for these items. But was the full price a fair price or wildly over optimistic to begin with? I choose to ignore amazing discount prices and consider only the current price compared with the prices for similar products available at other shops I can easily buy from that day. Disregard history. Prices for fashion items generally head downwards and stay down. If it’s cheaper than the other shops right now, then that’s a bargain.

"Disregard history. Prices for fashion items generally head downwards and stay down. If it’s cheaper than the other shops right now, then that’s a bargain."

But I wanted to be sure I would walk out with a genuine factory outlet bargain. Something I couldn’t get from a regular retail shop to make the extra effort of DFO worthwhile. I picked 3 shops to be the subjects of a little closer scrutiny – Wallace Bishop Jewellers, Colorado and Levis. At each I asked the sales assistant what factory outlet bargains were to be had.

All 3 outlet shops had some stock which was also available at regular shops. Colorado and Levis also showed me discontinued lines which are what I came to DFO to find. If not for asking, it was not possible for me to easily determine which stock was that which would be found at a regular shop, and that which was factory outlet discontinued or outgoing seasons stock. But they are upfront about it when asked.

Wallace Bishop at DFO explained that their range of watches were the same as the retail Wallace Bishop, but at lower prices just because it was a factory outlet. I’m sure the retailers would not be happy to be undercut by the factory outlet channel. To be fair, my inquiries at this jewellery shop were limited to my sphere of knowledge in such a shop, which is watches. There may well have been a discontinued diamond ring or last seasons gold-plated clock under glass dome somewhere in the shop, but I didn’t see any glaring “discontinued” signage or labeling in this shop.

Colorado showed me a range of end-of-season men’s slip-on shoes no longer available in regular shops. Of course the price tags were a patchwork of markdowns on top of markdowns, but discounted comparison prices are to be firmly ignored.

The Levis at DFO seemed to be the most genuine factory outlet of the 3 shops in this experiment. It sold clearly labeled samples and seconds at cheap prices.

After my weekend visit to DFO, I followed up with a little tour to the retail counterparts in central Melbourne. At Wallace Bishop retail shop, I found their range of Seiko watches to have the same 40% discount as the outlet. At the retail Colorado, I did not find the slip on shoes I was shown in the outlet, so direct comparison is not possible. I felt that the prices were in the same ball park for similar lines seen in the outlet, plus the retail store offered 50% off a second pair of shoes.

In the end I thought the bargains were few and far between at DFO in South Wharf. Sure, eternal youth might be possible if you eat enough Maltesers at a young age, but at this DFO I found bargains to be unlikely. I remain unconvinced that DFO shopping centres are all that much different from regular shops. Bargains can be found if you know the going price of an item, just as they can at any shop.

What’s your experience with factory outlets? Please comment.

View DFO South Wharf in a larger map

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