There are hidden jewels all over Europe, such as Etna, an Italian restaurant in Baumholder.

There are hidden jewels all over Europe, such as Etna, an Italian restaurant in Baumholder. (Terry Boyd / S&S)

Bargain hunting in Europe is far different from the States, where a gaggle of discounters from T.J. Maxx to Drug Warehouse sell goods deeply discounted below manufacturer’s suggested retail price.

In Europe, the stores with the most competitive prices rarely have discounted international brands, but sell their own brands or clearance items at very thin margins, making it up with sales volume and rapid turnover.

The exceptions are Media-Markt and Saturn electronics stores, which heavily discount inventories of well-known brands.

A look at some local stores that offer good deals:

Aldi: Largest retailer in Germany by sales and by number of stores. This family-owned, low-end store sells mostly private-brand goods, much of the merchandise stacked on pallets in its 7,500 no-frills stores worldwide, including one in nearly every German town.

Carrefour: France-based discount supermarket/department store chain is the second-largest retailer in the world behind Wal-Mart, and has a big presence across Europe.

IKEA: Furniture and home decor chain based in Sweden and the Netherlands is the largest furniture retailer in the world by sales. IKEA is known for selling modernist designs at rock-bottom prices. But consumers have to assemble many of the pieces.

Kaufland: The discount hypermarket division of the giant, super-secretive Schwarz Group, which also owns Lidl.

Lidl: Where you find an Aldi, you tend to find a Lidl right down the block. The concepts — bare bones, low-profit margin, low overhead — are the same. With about 5,000 stores, Lidl is part of the giant Schwarz Group, and operates in 17 countries.

Media-Markt and Saturn: Part of Metro AG, a holding company for a variety of retailers ranging from groceries to department stores, Media-Markts and Saturn stores sells discounted electronics goods and music in warehouse-style stores typically over 10,000 square feet.

NORMA: Yet another bare-bones German grocery/consumer-goods chain competing against Aldi and Lidl. The company has about 1,200 stores, mostly in Germany.

Schlecker: Germany-based chain of 15,000 discount drugstores across Europe, owned by self-made billionaire Anton Schlecker. Each store carries hundreds of well-known brands, as well as house brands.

Takko ModeMarkt: Takko is a fixture in smaller German towns and cities, selling inexpensive clothing, targeting young families, as well as younger women between 24 and 40. Takko has about 900 stores in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Wal-Mart Germany: Bentonville, Ark.-based mega-retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has bought out two German chains since 1999 and now operates about 90 stores around Germany.

Specialty stores: Located in Sohren, near Hahn Airport, Kaefers is a glassware and home décor clearance store convenient for the majority of the 30,000-plus Americans based from Kaiserslautern to Wiesbaden to Baumholder. Kaefers is one of the best bargain destinations, according to many knowledgeable American shoppers.

At its factory in Kirn, just east of Idar-Oberstein, Müller & Meirer GmbH makes purses, briefcases and leather goods for a variety of high-end brands including Porsche Design Group. Müller & Meirer has two factory sales each year, one in March and one in November, with seconds and overruns selling for as little as 5 euros.

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