Why Outlet Malls Actually Aren’t a Great Deal

Why Outlet Malls Actually Aren’t a Great Deal

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Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in The Penny Hoarder.

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What Penny Hoarder hasn’t been tempted by the thrill of a good deal?

If you’re into brand name goods, you’ve probably been lured to the local outlet mall in the hopes of snagging some luxury items at deep, deep discounts.

Whether you’re shopping for midrange brands like Gap and Banana Republic, or the higher-end houses, like Coach and Burberry — outlet malls seem like great places to splurge at a fraction of the cost.

Outlet stores can offer huge discounts, but are they really worth it? Unfortunately, the answer is almost always no.

Here’s the truth about outlet stores that they don’t want you to know.

Outlet stores offer high quality at low prices

Woman shopping for clothes
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One reason to consider luxury labels (albeit at a wildly discounted cost) is because they’re made to last. Yes, part of their jacked-up price is due to the brand name, but it’s also because luxury goodsThey are often made from higher-quality fabrics in a better-quality way.

If you don’t care that the Coach bag you got at an outlet is “so last season,” you can probably expect it to weather several seasons and still look fabulous, unlike the cute bags you might pick up for a steal at Target that last less than a year if you’re lucky.


Not necessarily.

Most consumers assume outlet malls stock their shelves — and clearance racks — with excess inventory, end-of-season items or slightly flawed factory seconds (i.e., a seam with a few errant stitches). In other words, the same stuff you’d find at full-price retail stores.

Outlet stores often sell their products at a lower price than retail because they are of lower quality.

Say hello to a dirty little industry secret: made-for-outlet products.

As the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), reports on its Consumer Information blog:

“Many stores sell products at their outlets made exclusively for those outlets. These items may be of lower quality than what’s sold in the regular stores. For example, a jacket might not be fully lined, the stripes on a shirt may not match up at the seams, a t-shirt may be made of a lighter-weight fabric, and shoes might be made with synthetic materials rather than real leather. If top quality is important, you may want to shop elsewhere. But if it’s the brand, style, or look that’s key, you may be in the right place.”

This fact is so obscure that four members are currently on the Congress. wroteIn 2014, the FTC requested that it investigate the matter. “potentially misleading marketing practices”Outlet stores

Outlet shopping was the hottest trend in 2017, Forbes also highlighted “that outlet malls fail to offer real deals since much of the product is specifically made for the locations.”

In essence, luxury brands are knocking off themselves, then selling those knockoffs to you — whether you realize it or not. At least when you buy a knockoff from a street vendor in New York City, you enter into the transaction fully aware you’re not getting the real deal.

Outlet Malls: The lure of the experience

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So maybe the quality of outlet items isn’t on par with what you’d find in a traditional store — but some outlet retailers are focused on shopper experience over the lure of the label.

That means you can still sport something made by brAnds you normally couldn’t afford and Enjoy a great shopping experience at an outlet store.

Retail Leader reports that outlet malls are outpacing regular malls in terms size and selection. Some outlet retailers are also designing. immersive shopping experiencesThis encourages consumers to shop longer and stay longer.

We talked to Richard LaermerPublic relations guru and author, eight books on marketing, bargain hunting and more, including “Trendspotting.”

“What does an outlet provide in a good way? Well, probably a good time,”He said. “It’s a great way to spend an afternoon, hanging with friends and buying cheap goods.”

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But I’m Still Getting a Discount at Outlet Stores … Right?

man calculating savings
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All right, so you’re getting potentially lower-quality items that may not even be manufactured by the brand whose label is on them. You still get the thrill of purchasing something at a fraction of the original price.


Dooney & Bourke outlet stores have a reputation of being reliable and quality. Catherine Koziol was a skilled shopper who worked in a high-end outlet mall in South Florida.

“Although prices may not be that much better, in terms of the bags, they appear to be the same as the ones on the regular website,” Koziol said.

According to her, outlet shops can sometimes be a good idea. “retail transfers,”It is the same brand name, same high-quality merchandise that is sold at regular stores, just reduced.

“But most of the stuff is ‘made for outlet,’ which means cheaper quality,” Koziol said.

Richard Laermer said that Dooney & Bourke was not the same.

“As for Dooney & Bourke, this is a totally unique idea. It’s almost all online and that is really cool,”He said. “They also seem to sell more quality.”

What is it like to shop online at outlet stores?

Man shopping online with credit card
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If it’s the discount you’re after and not the breezy, outdoor, browsing-for-hours shopping experience, why not shop at an online outlet store?

Fact: Comparing prices onlineIt can save you money. Especially when you’re not tempted with in-person impulse buys.

You can save yourself the trouble of obsessing over outlet malls. gas moneyYou can still score great deals, especially at these 10 online outlet stores.

  • Amazon Outlet
  • J. Crew Factory
  • Best Buy Outlet
  • 6pm
  • Last Call from Neiman Marcus
  • REI Outlet
  • Zales Outlet
  • Reebok Outlet
  • Nordstrom Rack
  • Burkes Outlet

So Are Outlet Stores Even Worth Visiting?

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While all this info may feel a bit doom-and-gloom, there’s still nothing wrong with shopping at an outlet store — so long as you do so with your eyes wide open as a savvy consumer.

“Most people go to outlet malls as sport,”Laemer. “But just don’t think there’s a bargain in poor-selling old models of clothing and other goods.”

Despite a decline in consumer flocking to physical shops, retailers are increasing sales outlet presence. Simon Property Group, which has retail properties in 37 U.S. States, launched the first National Outlet Shopping DayTo entice customers with “access to exclusive deals, fantastic finds, and giveaways.”

You still love the idea that you can fool your fashionista friends by wearing a? “luxury”You can buy the item they think you have spent a lot on. Your secret’s safe with us.

Disclaimer: All information on this site is objective. Sometimes, however, we receive compensation if you click on links within our stories.

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