Outlet Stores May Not Be What You Think They Are

Old-school outlet shopping involved visiting clothing factory towns and digging through bins of slightly irregular underpants in a rough store space that was sometimes just off the factory floor. Today, outlet stores are nicely designed stores in special malls and in regular malls alike, thousands of miles away from where the clothes are made.

That’s what “outlet store” originally meant: an outlet for stuff that clothing companies wanted to get rid of: items from previous seasons that didn’t sell, overruns, and so on. In most outlet stores, that’s no longer the case.

Okay, but what about the department store-branded outlets both online and in malls, like Neiman Marcus Last Call Studio or Nordstrom Rack? Yeah, a Neiman Marcus representative explained to Racked that the merchandise in the Last Call Studio stores is made by the same designers as items in a regular Neiman Marcus store, but they cost less. They’re for “aspirational shoppers” who value the cachet of a big brand name. Nordstrom, meanwhile, explained that about 80% of the items sold at Nordstrom Rack stores are designed and made especially for the outlet market.

How can you find out? Check the tags: items from previous seasons or overstock from retail stores will have their tags marked, removed, or cut. (This also applies to closeout stores like Marshalls: most items there are made only for the closeout market as well.)

When a manufacturer is being honest about it, items made for the outlet market only will have some kind of differentiating mark: for Banana Republic, for example, outlet items have three diamonds on the label under the store name. The Old Navy/Gap/Banana Republic brand ladder has plenty of outlets scattered across the country, but they claim that they no longer sell overstock or previous-season items in their outlets.

Buyer Beware: What You’re Actually Getting at Outlet Stores [Racked]

8 Tips To Get The Best Bargains On Your Next Outlet Shopping Trip
How To Avoid The Nefarious Tricks Of Outlet Malls

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.