My husband and I did a little outlet-mall shopping Sunday
(Mother's Day, of all days). I bought two pairs of shorts for 25%
less than similar ones at Jcrew.com. I also bought two dresses for
my daughters; one 40% less than the same dress online and the other
43% less than the cheapest dress on the retailer's site (there was
no similar dress). However, the headbands that I bought them were
just $1 less than the online sale price.
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My husband purchased a pair of jeans, dress pants and shoes that
all were 40% less than similar items on BananaRepublic.com. He also
bought two pairs of shorts that were 50% cheaper than similar ones
So did we get good deals? Notice that most of the time I said
"similar" items. The products merchants sell in their outlets
stores aren't always the same as what you find in their retail
stores or Web sites. And the discounts on the clothing we got were
good but not incredibly deep.
, a site that provides reviews for budget products, did a study to
compare retail versus outlet stores to find out what sort of
savings consumers can expect. Based on Cheapism.com's findings,
here's what you should know about outlet stores:
Prices aren't as low as you'd think.
Brand-name merchandise won't be dirt cheap at outlets because it's
expensive to begin with. Sometimes outlet prices are only a few
bucks lower than retail prices (remember my headband example?).
According to Cheapism.com's study, most of the savings come from
frequent sales and promotions that outlet stores run. A salesperson
at one outlet store told Cheapism.com that clothing usually sells
for the full outlet price for about a week after it arrives, then
items are quickly marked down and remain discounted for the rest of
their time in the store.
On average, consumers can expect to save close to 30% off
regular mall prices by shopping at outlets. But note that the
MSRPs, or retail prices, printed on outlet tags should be viewed
skeptically because many of the items were never sold in retail
stores. So it pays to be familiar with the retail prices of items
you want to buy so you'll know whether you're getting a
Coupons can help lower prices more.
Some outlets e-mail coupons and promotions to customers who sign up
for their mailing lists. For example, customers who sign up for
Premium Outlets' VIP Shopper Club get exclusive online coupons and
a voucher for a free coupon book. So check outlet Web sites before
you shop to look for special offers. According to Cheapism.com's
report, AAA members may qualify for additional discounts.
Some retailers use their outlet stores to liquidate anything that
didn't sell in their mall stores or to unload slightly damaged
items. Others manufacture more of certain retail items to sell in
outlets. The prices are lower in the outlet because the retailers
are cutting out the middle man and going directly to the consumer.
And companies make product lines specifically for their outlet
stores and sell them at lower prices because they use cheaper
materials or skip extra embellishments. However, the quality on
these made-for-outlet lines usually still is good, according to
Return policies vary.
Some outlet stores let you return unused merchandise at any time as
long as it still has the price tag on it and you have the receipt.
Others have 90-day or 120-day return policies. Some stores,
however, don't allow
returns. So always ask for a store's policy before you make a
As long as you're aware of these things, outlets malls can be a
good deal. The items we bought at the outlet stores were close
enough to what the retailers were offering online, but at a better
price. Plus, we didn't have to pay for shipping.
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