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SHOP TIL YOU DROP: Best Boutique & Bargain Bazaar set at Del Mar Fairgrounds

Ask a San Diego shopper (or any shopper, for that matter) what her retail fantasy is and chances are the word “sale” will come up at least once. In today’s economy, however, sales are more than just a bonus; they are a necessity for both the consumer and the retailer.

While larger department stores continue to offer seasonal sales, for small businesses like local boutiques, selling clearance merchandise is a little more difficult.

Enter Sally Ray, owner of Carlsbad-based le Market, which is putting on the inaugural Best Boutique & Bargain Bazaar on Sept. 18 and 19. The two-day event will give San Diegans access to extremely discounted merchandise from some of the city’s finest local boutiques. While featured brands include designers such as Michael Kors and Seven for All Mankind, shoppers can also scoop up luxurious pajamas, bath and body products, antique home decor items and even European lingerie.

“I’ve had my own boutique in the past, and I realize that in this economy it is hard for small boutiques to survive and to creatively get rid of their sale merchandise,” Ray said. “I wanted to bring people together under one roof to shop at boutiques that met our criteria: local, high-end, and boutique or Web site accessible.”

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Participants include more than 50 boutiques, including Cardiff’s Azaria and Denim Lounge, Carlsbad’s Moonbeams and TRE, Del Mar’s Rare Earth and Fairen Del, and La Jolla’s Lulu Belle.

“I know with the way the economy has been, people are buying differently,” said Lisa Engstrom, owner of Lulu Belle. “I see them still buying, which is great, but they want more for their money; something they can wear to work and wear out. I am hoping the experience will be great exposure for my store since in reality, I am still a pretty new boutique and I offer some great deals to our local customers.”

Irina Rachow, owner of Fairen Del in Del Mar, echoes this sentiment.

“We are participating as a way to clear out some older items at screamingly low prices,” she said. “Also, we would like to gain exposure in the area to promote our fairly new (6-month-old) store in Del Mar.”

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While the focus is on boutique bargains, the charity aspect of the Bazaar is also emphasized. A portion of the event’s proceeds will support the YWCA’s Becky’s House program, which provides shelter to victims of domestic violence. Shoppers who choose to donate new or gently used items at the event will be eligible to win prizes such as a spa getaway.

“The charity aspect was a big part of my decision (to join the event), as I am always interested in helping out charities,” Engstrom said. “I often donate clothes or gift certificates to events for charities. I think it is always important to help out others, especially now more than ever!”

And just what can shoppers expect in terms of merchandise?

“We will feature everything from BCBG and Laundry to Twill 22 and Last Tango,” said Sheree Vihon, co-owner of TRE and Rare Earth in Del Mar. “Although the goods will be at huge markdowns, we also want to introduce people to our concept of high style and great value.”

“We will be selling a broad range of clearance items,” Rachow said. “We’ll have everything from jewelry and handbags to gift items, apparel and luggage.”

For Sally Ray, this has been a learning experience.

“Since this is the first year we are doing this, I initially contacted many of the local boutiques to see if they would be interested in participating,” Ray said. “Now, word got around the community and I have people contacting me all the time, wanting to join the Bazaar. It’s great.”

Discounted waxing and threading services will also be available at the Bazaar, as will mini-spa treatments.

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Ultimately, the event provides the opportunity to shop, get pampered and support some charities - all under one roof. What more could one ask for?

‘The Best Boutique &

Bargain Bazaar’

Sept. 18 & 19

Del Mar Fairgrounds

$12 (two-day pass), $8 (one-day)

Mylemarket.com

*Shoppers who sign up on le Market’s Web site will receive a complimentary goodie bag with items from Crown Jewels, eLiveLife and Dr. Yco and more while supplies last.