What is an outlet store? Long ago, factories where consumer goods were made were actually situated in the United States, and shoppers could visit factory stores to find overruns, merchandise with tiny errors, and other wonderful cut-rate goodness. (As an exciting bonus, if you took a wrong turn, you could end up on the factory floor.) Outlet malls have proliferated, but there are few factories left in America. Today, a store proclaiming itself to be an “outlet” is more likely to be peddling lower-quality merchandise under a well-known brand name. So how do you know when an outlet isn’t offering any true deals?
DivineCaroline rounded up a few tips for effective outlet shopping. Don’t let retailers’ “outlet” tricks fool you.
Look at apparel tags. The tags of irregular or imperfect merchandise are usually sliced, marked on, or otherwise altered to show that the merchandise is unfit for retail sale.
Know what an item is really worth. How can you know whether you’re getting a great deal at the Samsonite outlet if you don’t know the real retail price of a suitcase?
Think seasonally. It’s a good bet that any in-season merchandise is from an outlet-only line.
Remember that fewer stores = better quality. If you’re shopping at a store that has posts in every outlet mall in the country, you’re almost guaranteed to be getting outlet-quality merchandise. At an outlet with only a few locations, the merchandise is more likely to be true overruns, discontinued items, and last-season’s line because the company doesn’t have to fill hundreds of stores.
Me, I don’t consider it real outlet shopping unless I’m digging through a bin of $4 “slightly irregular” jeans of all sizes. That experience doesn’t really exist anymore–it’s been replaced by disappointingly well-organized and ubiquitous outlet malls scattered all over the country.
Buyer Beware: Sneaky Tricks of Outlet Malls [DivineCaroline]