All You Need to Know About Outlet Shopping

by Eva Marienchild

You can get awesome deals in outlets stores. You just need to shop smart! Here’s all you need to know about outlet shopping to do just that.

OK, so it’s well-known that shopping at discount outlets will get you good value for your money. Nowadays almost everything is available in an outlet — it’s not just food anymore. That’s why it is important to exercise caution and know what you’re getting.

But what do you need to know?

Let’s start with why outlets were built in the first place.

Why Are Outlets In Existence?

When you’re shopping at an outlet — whether for clothing, furniture, appliances, sneakers, etc. – you need to know that most of the items are at the outlet now because they didn’t originally sell at the main retail store. Knowing that, you might look at the items as surplus goods.

That makes for a good deal, right? Absolutely. However, we said “most” (as in “most of the items are at the outlet”), not “all”.

That’s because not all of the items you’ll purchase will fall into a bargain category. Some products may be similar items manufactured specifically for the outlet — they were never in the main store to begin with. At this point we’re talking potential profit for the store, pure and simple.

What Sort of Outlets Should You Look For?

There are two kings of the genre: The ever-popular Tanger, with 43 stores, and Simon, who one financial analyst gives high marks to with this statement: “It turns out that the dominant player in the outlet space is in fact Simon as they own more outlets in total as well as higher quality outlets in comparison.” See more information here.

Both dominant outlets are located throughout the United States. You can Google “Outlet Stores” and your zip code and find those and other outlets a-plenty!

As one example, Google “Sneaker Outlet Store” (with your zip code) and you might get “Nike Factory Store”. Don’t let the word “Factory” throw you off. It’s another way of saying that you’ll walk in looking for sales and walk out with purchases at prices much lower than retail stores.

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What You Need To Look Out For

Look closely and shop carefully; there is no way to tell which items were originally at the main store. The label will usually give you a clue. However, you’ll easily spot the difference in quality.

When shopping for clothing, look for hanging threads and uneven seams. Too, a big consumer complaint about outlets seems to be that not all sizes are available. You won’t know until you go. In most cases, it’s worth a trip.

How to Shop Outlet Stores

Don’t say we didn’t warn you: you need to join your outlet’s rewards club. Why? For the coupons and sales tailor-made to your shopping needs. How do they know what these are? You’ll fill in some basic information, and they’ll handle the rest. It’s easy enough for the business to know where you shop and what you purchase.

Coupon books, anyone? In most cases, you’ll benefit from a store app that connects you to discounts. Too, spend enough cash and you’ll be up for free gift cards.

Get Busy Looking For A Sales Rack

Where is the sales rack? Usually in the back of the store. It’ll look pretty rumpled, due to the super-low prices.

Go do your own rumpling and exit with hefty savings!

Travel Tips

So did you know that, according to Consumer Reports’ Inside Dope About Outlet Malls, you can get coffee makers, blenders and cookware, as well as handbags at decent discounts, but that you’d do well to time the trip right. Why? Consumer Reports says that trips to outlet malls are a schlep. “In our survey, 34 percent of outlet stores where readers shopped were more than 50 miles from their home; one in five were more than 100 miles away.”

Keeping that in mind, it makes sense to arrive early in the morning or around lunch time, when most shoppers are taking time away from their shopping expedition to eat.

How Much Can You Save?

Incidentally, Consumer Reports found that a Brooks Brothers’ men’s leather belt, usually on sale for around $98.00, had an outlet price of $74.00. There was only one isolated instance of an outfit–an OshKoshB’Gosh outfit–that was actually cheaper at retail.

As you can see, you can get awesome deals in these outlets. You just need to shop smart!

Reviewed July 2019

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