Question: Is Outlet Shopping Really Worth It?

Posted: 03/08/13 3:00 PM (Modified: 03/08/13 3:00 PM)

It seems like every other week someone is telling me they're heading to the "outlets" to load up. I try not to send up too many red flags but I can't help but wonder if anyone is really saving any money. Yes, there are amazing deals at the outlet malls but, are they all amazing deals? Nope. Before you head out for a little outlet shopping, here are a few things to note...

1. They're Not All Outlet Stores: Just because the store is located in an outlet mall does not mean it is really an outlet store. One trip to Branson will tell you that. When you get to the store, ask the employees if it is truly an outlet otherwise, save your money for a good sale somewhere else.

2. It's Not Always a Good Deal: Just like grocery shopping, it is SO important to know your prices. I recently walked into an outlet store with signs everywhere for cheap jeans but they're weren't cheap, they were the same price as the regular mall. Don't let the marketing fool you, shop smart by knowing your prices. 

3. It's Not All the Same: Some stores actually make items specifically for their outlets (82% according to SmartMoney) and it's not the same quality as you would expect nor can the price compare to its store-quality counterpart. That means, you might not be getting a deal at all. In fact, because of the difference in quality, you could be getting exactly what you're paying for, cheap clothing.

4. Yes, They Take Coupons: Most outlets offer coupon booklets at the Customer Service desk. Some charge for these booklets but many are free with a military ID, AAA card and so on. Some of the actual stores have their own coupons as well, be sure to sign up for e-mails from the store you plan on shopping so you can have your discounts ready. That's the key to savings, apply as many discounts to your items as humanly possible.

5. They Expect You to Load Up: Notice the location of the outlet stores, most people "make a day of it" when going outlet shopping. That means, you bring your credit cards and wallets full of cash to load up. If grocery stores can lure you into their store with .50 BBQ sauce on the front page of the ad knowing full well you'll spend $200 before you leave the store, don't you think outlet malls can do the same? All they have to do is put the word OUTLET in front of their store name and we all shop 'till we drop. BAM. Marketing wins again. The point is, if you drive 2 or 3 hours to get to an outlet, be sure to do your research first and don't "load up" just because you're there. 

Do I hate outlets? Nope. I just went to Branson a few weeks ago and picked up a few things...notice I said "few things." I didn't go crazy. Why? I know my prices and I do know what is a deal and what is not. In fact, there is a specific store that we tend to purchase my TV clothing from and when I went into the outlet version, I knew the quality was way different. I wear their clothes all the time, I could feel the difference. Not only that, I knew with my coupons, I could probably get a better deal in the "real" store. 

The point is, whether you're grocery shopping or retail shopping, know your prices and shop smart. 

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