Does Outlet Shopping Really Save You Money?

People carrying lots of shopping bags

Outlet shopping can be a real thrill, as many outlet malls host famous manufacturers and brands, and feature thousands of items at really good prices. This article will contain a few tips to help you get the most out the experience.

Be Careful of the Word "Outlet"

Thinking of outlet shopping conjures up images of unbelievable deals - deals so incredible, there's no reason to shop anywhere else. Not quite.

Things to Consider

Outlet centers, factory stores, and outlet malls all deal with major manufacturers trying to move stock. There are many reasons for this.

  • A retailer ships inventory to an outlet store because it isn't moving fast enough elsewhere or is general overstock.
  • Products have been slightly damaged or improperly made. Depending on the gaff, merchandise is still good enough to be sold, just not at a prime retailer.
  • Companies shift old stock to prepare for seasonal/industry changes.
  • Products never sold, perhaps for a reason, so rather than throwing them away, manufacturers breathe life into the products one more time through outlet sales.
  • Retailers and manufacturers have gone out of business, and transfer inventory for resale at an outlet.

Matching Their Bottom Line to Yours

The bottom line is that companies still want to make a profit, so not everything is going to be slashed to the rock bottom price all the time. There are still stages of sales cycles to go through, even when outlet shopping. Know what normal retail pricing is before hitting an outlet.Additionally, if the item isn't on your "usual" shopping list, the outlet price still may not be a bargain. If you normally wouldn't pay $200 for a designer sweater, buying it for that price at an outlet center doesn't make it a deal.

Research Online First

Finding Discounts

Most major outlet centers have websites now, so you can plan an outlet shopping strategy easier than ever before. Many of these websites have printable online coupons and sales offers that made aid or sway your bargain hunting. For example, Tanger Outlet Centers, with more than 30 outlet malls in North America, has a special page that leads you to a nearby center. Once there, you can preview all pertinent sales, download coupons, and even plan to receive free samples and promotional gifts when you visit a particular store.

Tanger also offers AAA members special savings booklets and gift cards. The membership that provides hotel and travel discounts has many shopping affiliations, too. Tanger's offer is explained on their website.

Finding Outlets

A helpful guide to North American outlet centers and factory stores is OutletBound. Search by location, or types of stores. If you're looking for particular stores, such as Mikasa, DKNY, Ralph Lauren, and other designer and specialty products, you can set up a search that way as well.

Tips for Outlet Shopping

Get out the good walking shoes and grab the water - it's time to go outlet shopping!

  • Once you've done your online research, make a list of where to go and what you need.
  • Establish a spending plan so you can monitor the outlay.
  • Make the best use of your list by doing a little comparison shopping throughout the outlet center before purchasing. Most shops will hold items.
  • Consider your time to be as valuable as your money and budget for that as well. Choose to go during off-peak times (usually early morning), days (Monday - Wednesday), and even seasons, especially if you're in a tourist area.
  • Remember, not all items are in perfect condition, so look everything over carefully, plug in electronics, and try on clothing.
  • The best deals are commonly found in the front and back of the store.
  • Make sure you understand the return policy. It often varies widely by store and product.

Frequent Shopper Clubs

A number of centers encourage frequent outlet shopping by rewarding customers with incentive programs. Usually for a small club membership fee, ($10-$25), shoppers receive ongoing benefits of coupon booklets, free stroller and wheelchair rental, exclusive sale opportunities, activities and gifts for the children, and a variety of other enticements. Loyalty incentive programs like this hold a number of advantages if you plan on doing most of your shopping with the outlet or parent company. The evaluation is strictly up to you: will you do enough smart outlet shopping to offset the cost of belonging to the club? If so, then take advantage of the club membership. Most have easy cancellation policies if you decide it's not for you.

With a careful strategy, you can still greatly benefit from outlet shopping, with or without a frequent shopping card.

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Does Outlet Shopping Really Save You Money?