As we head off to indulge in recession-tempered crass consumerism, it's important to weigh the pros and cons of shopping at outlet stores, because the value proposition varies enormously. French Connection, for instance, offers essentially the same level of stuff in their standard shops and outlets, at minimal discount. Calvin Klein outlets usually contain only low-end merchandise, but it's pretty much the same as low-end CK anywhere. Banana Republic, on the other hand, apparently has a special factory somewhere cranking out things that look like the BR style but use the cheapest possible materials and construction, just for their outlets. And finally we have DKNY and Kenneth Cole, whose outlet wares would be nicer if they were made in China out of compressed bird poop. Shop carefully.