Outlet mall shopping can be a fun way to do back to school shopping or just pass away a summer day. For many “fancy frugals” they seem to gleam like an oasis of designer savings in the desert. It’s a day of promised savings, rewarding the dedicated shopper who will find a trove of off-price goods that were sold at luxury retailers—perhaps last season, but who’s counting?
Although this is occasionally still true, over the last few decades, as retailers recognized the profitability of attracting Americans looking for a deal (yes—they will use this great quality about you against you!), they began to build an industry around outlet shopping that is completely separate from their regular business.
That doesn’t mean outlet malls are all bad, it just means you need to be a more informed shopper.
With that in mind, here are some tips from Learnvest to help you make the most of your next outlet mall trip:
1.Know the value of a sunk cost. Even if you’ve driven for 45 minutes or more, if you don’t see anything you like, just walk away. Now that you understand the geographic strategy, don’t throw good money after bad to justify the road trip.
2.Ignore the “full price.” It’s probably fake, and the only thing that’s relevant is whether the item is worth the selling price.
3.Carefully check quality. Have a hawk-eye look at construction, stitching, potential damage. Check tags for fabric content and the country of manufacture. A Consumer Reports study said that 77% of people can’t tell the difference between outlet and regular merchandise. Don’t let that be you—if you favor a designer, regularly check their full-price merchandise at the store so you are familiar with its quality and will be able to tell the difference.
4.Research ahead of time. If you know you want a pair of Nike shorts, for example, check out the price online or at your local store, so you know how the outlet price compares. The savings may not be as great as you think, especially after you account for lower quality.
5. Beware of regular retail stores. There’s no legal definition of an “outlet” in the US, so sometimes regular retail stores sneak themselves into an outlet.
Bottom Line: The designer outlet buyer suggests that the best way to snag a deal is to head to the department stores or designer retailers at the end of each season (March and August) when merchandise is all marked down. “It will only get marked down a little bit more, maybe 10%, before it gets transferred to the outlet.” This way you have a nicer shopping environment and know you’re getting real, full-price merchandise for a real deal.
Otherwise, if you head to the outlets, be armed with this knowledge: The best defense is to look at the selling price, check quality, ask whether it’s worth it, and consider nothing else. If it’s not worth it, walk away.
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*Information sourced from Learnvest, for more on this topic and to read the original article in it’s entirety, please visit Learnvest.
** Image Source: Dreamstime.com