Outlet stores

How to shop smart and save money in outlet stores


If you shop smart and do your homework, outlet stores can be a great place to save money. But the lure of shopping malls can also cause you to overspend. Maximize your savings by knowing the different types of outlet stores available and where to find the best deals and coupons.

There are different types of “stores”

Factory outlets are available in the three main varieties. You can quickly determine the quality and value they offer by knowing what type of store you are heading to. Here is how it breaks down.

  • Actual factory outlets: Genuine points of sale offer the greatest potential for savings. They sell products that were originally stocked in regular retail stores. Items may be damaged or have irregularities, or may be phased out from seasonal products and are priced accordingly. REI, Lands’ End, JCPenney, and Nordstrom Rack all have “real” outlet stores. Also if you are comfortable haggling , real outlets offer a chance to hone your skills. Damaged items may already be marked, but there is usually a wiggle room in the price. This is especially true in furniture stores where floor space is limited and inventory needs to be moved quickly.
  • Factory outlets: These locations carry merchandise specially designed for them, not items that were originally stored elsewhere. Buyer beware: the stitching and material quality are second rate and will not last as long as in an original showroom. In other words, things are cheaper for a reason. Often the price tag or tag has the word “Factory” printed on it. If you are unsure if you are shopping at an outlet store, just ask an associate and shop accordingly. A good rule of thumb is that prices need to be 30-40% lower than actual retail stores for the value proposition to work. Gap, J.Crew, Eddie Bauer, Under Armor, and Express all have popular outlet stores.
  • Disguised Retail Stores: Many outlets are simply ordinary retail stores placed in shopping malls to take advantage of heavy foot traffic. Bargains are hard to find because the merchandise and prices are usually the same as in regular stores. If the store’s signage doesn’t indicate the location of a factory or outlet, you’re probably shopping at a regular retail store. Famous Footwear, Sunglass Hut, American Eagle Outfitters, and Aeropostale all operate regular retail stores in malls.

Find coupons on Facebook

Most outlet stores do not accept coupons issued regularly in-store. They should generally be labeled as “exit” coupons and can often be difficult to find. You can google it until you turn blue and can’t find a single usable one. Instead, turn to Facebook. Find the business page for the specific outlet you will be visiting. For example, “Gap Outlet – Shasta Factory Outlet MallTheir page will keep you up to date with point-of-sale specific coupons, many of which will only be valid for that specific location.

Buy the Nike Hash Wall and negotiate

Nike outlet stores are among the most popular in the country. They have a mix of styles from last season as well as items made specifically for the store. Due to this mix, it can be difficult to determine where the deals are in the store. You’ll save the most money on the back wall, called “Hash Wall”, at all Nike outlet stores. This is where they store all the latest shoes in stock, as well as B-grade shoes. B-grade shoes that may have scuffs or may have been returned after being worn once. These shoes are often sold at a slight discount, but you can get a better deal by approaching a seller and reporting the defect. Start by asking for an additional 20% off the asking price, and depending on the imperfection, you have a good chance of getting it, or something close.

Save your purchases for a friendly vacation

Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends are the two best weekends of the year to find outlet deals on clothing and footwear. Indeed, the two weekends correspond to the end of a fashion season. For this reason, outlet stores add items to the clearance section in bulk and pass the savings on to you. Now is the perfect time to stock up cheaply for the following year. The best way to save is to shop a store-wide clearance sale and combine it with a coupon found on the outlet’s Facebook page.

Know the return policy

Ultimately, be aware of the return policy in factory outlets. They can vary enormously. Some items are final sale and others require you to return the items only to the point of sale. Malls are often in the middle of nowhere, so depending on how far you’ve traveled, returning items to the actual point of sale can be a headache.

Never assume that just because you walk into an outlet you’re going to find a good deal. It may have been the case in the 80s and 90s, but nowadays a certain detective is needed.


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