Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Live cheaply.
As the holiday season approaches, now is a great time to take a look at what we’re really getting in the outlet stores. This is not intended to discourage people from shopping at points of sale; it’s just to advise and make us better buyers.
All in all, you can save money at an outlet store. The same principles that apply to regular purchases apply in an outlet store. You need to know what you are buying and how much it should cost.
Once upon a time, when you went to an outlet store, there were factory overruns, unsold items, off-season items, and damaged merchandise that once hung in the retail store. Shopping at the point of sale was a hit and miss proposition.
The racks sometimes contained only one or two items. All labels were clearly marked, with several price stickers superimposed with increasingly lower prices. Sometimes the clothing tags were cut off to indicate that they were going out items.
Most of the large retailers had a few outlet stores scattered across the country. Many were located far from metropolitan areas, often in almost unmarked and not so glamorous malls.
These outlets were deliberately placed in remote locations so as not to compete with retail stores. Despite the almost run down quality of some of these stores, you really did get a $ 60 jacket that once hung from a rack in the retail store for $ 20.
Somewhere along the line that all changed.
Modern factory outlets
Computerized inventory management has helped retailers better manage their inventory. This reduced the amount of excess inventory that would end up being sold at outlets.
Retailers realized that there was a market for their brands at a lower price. Retailers these days have multiple âoutletâ stores in every major metropolitan area in the United States and even overseas, so they have to fill the shelves with something.
Where do factory outlet goods come from?
A source is referred to as a manufactured good for the factory. Factory outlets are stocked with products made specifically for factory outlets.
Retailers make lower-cost, lower-quality knockoffs of their own full-price merchandise using different fabrics, stitching, buttons, and zippers.
Another type of release merchandise is private label. These are merchandise made with the retailer’s name on the label, but you will never see them in the full-price retail store. Again, the quality is lower, and that’s why it costs less.
Four members of Congress who asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate said that “up to 85%âOf all output goods falls into these two categories.
Most people don’t realize it. You think you are getting a good deal on full price merchandise when in reality you are getting inferior counterfeit.
Some stores readily admit what they are selling. Neiman Marcus Last Call Studio is open to selling almost completely factory-made, private label merchandise.
How much are we saving?
When you look at a price tag in an outlet store, what does that mean? What does the ârelative toâ price really mean? How much money are we really saving?
To some extent, it depends on where you live, as some states have laws about what can appear on a price tag.
In reality, the items may never have been sold at the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, âin relation toâ, suggested retail price, etc.
Marshalls and TJ Maxx stores, both owned by the same company, are in effect akin to what was once an outlet. They carry designer items at a discount, but with over 2,100 stores they have to sell other merchandise as well.
The company says âWe take advantage of a wide variety of opportunities, which can include department store cancellations, a manufacturer making too many products, or a closeout deal when a supplier wants to clear merchandise at the end of a season. “
In addition, “we also have merchandise made for us to bring you exceptional fashion and quality at an incredible price.”
A word about outlet shopping centers
A shopping center is a shopping center in which most of the individual tenants are owner-operated stores. This means that some of the stores in a mall are actually regular retail stores.
When a shopping center is developed, developers require tenants, through their leases, to sell a certain percentage of merchandise at a discount compared to retail store prices. This means that in some outlet stores only part of the merchandise is sold at a discount.
How to get a real deal
- Understand what you are buying. Be aware that the product at the point of sale may not be of the same quality as the merchandise in the full-price retail store. Visit a full-price store before the point of sale to examine the quality of the full-price merchandise.
- Know what things cost. Visit a full-price store before the point of sale to check prices. Do not rely on the labels on the merchandise at the outlet store. You may be saving money, but the MSRP shown on the label is only an estimate.
- Shop the discounters, but be aware that they also sell items made for the factory.
- Be patient and shop around for traditional retailers. Buy during the holidays, sales and end of season sales. When shopping for sale, use store coupons and discount gift cards. You can save as much or more than when you exit.
- Subscribe to retailer newsletters. Sign up for retailer emails to participate in regular sales and flash sales. Set up a secondary email address so that these don’t clutter your regular email.
- Boutique designer flash sales at Beyond the Rack, Rue La La, Gilt, Zulily and more.
- Consider buying less clothes and buy better quality items on sale. Take good care of them so that they last longer.
- Shop at high-end resale and thrift stores. I bought Ralph Lauren pants with the tags still in place from a thrift store.
Other ways to save on purchases
- Check the retailer’s website for current sales before you go.
- Join the loyalty programs of your favorite stores to receive special coupons and sales information.
- Most malls offer a free coupon book. Download it before you go so you don’t have to find the Visitor Center.
- If you are going to Oregon, Alaska, Delaware, Montana, or New Hampshire, leave room in your suitcase as they have no state sales tax, although there may be municipal sales taxes in Alaska. I bought expensive items like Bose headphones, my current laptop, and clothes in Oregon. Depending on your local sales tax, you save 6-10%, and more if you catch a sale.
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