How Outlet Malls Fool Shoppers

Alternet is running an excerpt from Ellen Rupel Shell’s fascinating new book, Cheap: the High Cost of Discount Culture. The piece handily illustrates Shell’s argument that outlet malls are for suckers.

A few choice points, summarized for your convenience:

  • Manufacturers’ suggested retail prices are a joke, often wholly fabricated to give consumers the impression that they are getting bargains.
  • Outlet malls are based in the middle of nowhere not only because the real estate is cheaper but as part of their marketing strategy. When consumers have to drive an hour or two to shop, shopping becomes a day-long venture, a veritable investment. Those who make the trek will thus feel compelled to spend more to make up for their “sunk costs” in time, energy, and gas.
  • Instead of following the old-school mall approach of trying to make consumers comfortable in order to keep them inside, outlet malls do the opposite: they go for discomfort and turnover. Shell writes that, “On average, shoppers spend nearly 80 percent more money at a bare bones outlet mall than they would at a fully loaded regional mall.”
  • Many stores-Coach, the Gap, Brooks Brothers, Ann Taylor, Donna Karan—produce lower-quality merchandise specifically for their outlets.

    How Outlet Malls Have Convinced Shoppers into Thinking They’re Getting a Sweet Deal [Cheap: the High Cost of Discount Culture]