Outlet stores

Consumer Reports says these are the best outlet stores

Factory outlets promise significant price reductions compared to traditional retail stores. But are the savings worth it?

Outlets have for years been places where stores unload “seconds”, unsold merchandise, manufacturing errors, factory scraps and refurbished items. Homeowners often require that a certain percentage of goods be sold at a discount to retail prices. It is estimated that bargain-hungry consumers will spend $ 42 billion this year in outlet stores, up from $ 24.3 billion in 2012.

But as the manufacturing of goods, which are made primarily overseas, has changed so that waste is never shipped to the United States, the market game has changed. Many manufacturers will make items specifically for their outlet stores, designed with fewer finishes or cheaper materials than their retail offerings. However, you usually don’t know what to expect until you show up at the outlet store and start handling the merchandise. By this time, you’ve already walked around the outskirts of town or a few towns, and you’re not going to come home empty-handed.

In this photo taken on June 11, 2009, a group of people walk into the Napa Premium Outlets stores in Napa, California.Eric Risberg / Today

Consumer Reports sent secret buyers across the country to test out various outlet stores and see who came out on top. Armed with a concern for value, agents ranked the stores they visited based on price, product availability and quality, customer service, and overall satisfaction.

Among the best:

  • Good value
  • LL bean
  • Haggar
  • Carter
  • OshKosh B’Gosh
  • Jockey
  • Bose
  • Men’s Coach / Coach
  • Bath and Body
  • Vitamin World
  • Corningware Corelle

But not all stores took note.

The lowest ranked stores are included Nike, Levi’s, GAP, Old Navy, and J. Crew.

Overall, respondents to the Consumer Reports survey said they were happy with outlet stores, realizing savings of 3-72%. But around 17% of those polled said the prices were actually higher. So, to make sure you get the deals you deserve, try these handy tips:

Get a card
With an average mall with over 100 stores, it isn’t too silly to go online ahead of time, download the map, and work out your plan of attack.

Check the app
Price checking apps like Red laser can scan barcodes to make sure you can’t get better prices online or at nearby stores.

Ask for discounts
Common benefits include discounts for AARP members and students.

Check the return policy
If you’re not happy with your purchase from an outlet store, you usually can’t return it to the chain’s regular store. We would have to go back to the factory outlet to take care of it.

Email Ben Popken [email protected] or tweet @bpopken.

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