If you shop smart and do your homework, outlet stores can be a great place to save money. But the allure of outlet malls can also get you to overspend. Maximize your savings by knowing the different types of outlet stores available and where to find the best deals and coupons within.
Understand There are Different Types of “Outlet Stores”
Outlet stores come in the three major varieties. You can quickly determine the quality and value they provide by knowing what type of store you’re walking into. Here’s how it breaks down.
- Actual Outlet Stores: True outlet locations provide the largest potential for savings. They carry products that were originally stocked in regular retail stores. Items may be damaged or have irregularities, or may be phased out seasonal products and are priced accordingly. REI, Lands’ End, JCPenney, and Nordstrom Rack all have “true” outlet stores. Also, if you’re comfortable haggling, true outlet locations offer a chance to hone your skills. Damaged items may already be marked down, but there is typically wiggle room in the price. This is especially true at furniture outlets where floor space is limited and inventory needs to be moved quickly.
- Factory Stores: These locations carry merchandise made specifically for them, not items that were originally stocked elsewhere. Buyer beware: Stitching and quality of the material is second rate and won’t last as long as you’d find in an original showroom. In other words, stuff is cheaper for a reason. Often the price tag or label will have “Factory” printed on it. If you’re not sure whether you’re shopping in a factory store, simply ask an associate and shop accordingly. A good rule of thumb is the prices need to be 30%-40% lower than actual retail stores for the value proposition to work. Gap, J.Crew, Eddie Bauer, Under Armour, and Express all have popular factory stores.
- Retail Stores in Disguise: Many outlet locations are simply regular retail stores placed in outlet malls to take advantage of heavy foot traffic. Screaming deals are hard to find as the merchandise and pricing is typically identical to regular stores. If store signage doesn’t indicate a factory or outlet location, you’re probably shopping in a regular retail store. Famous Footwear, Sunglass Hut, American Eagle Outfitters, and Aeropostale all operate regular retail stores in outlet malls.
Find Outlet Coupons on Facebook
Most outlet stores won’t accept regular issue in-store coupons. They typically have to be labeled as “outlet” coupons and can often be hard to find. You can search Google until you’re blue in the face and not find a single useable one. Instead, turn to Facebook. Search for the business page of the specific outlet location you’ll be visiting. For example, “Gap Outlet – Shasta Factory Outlet Mall“. Their page will keep you in the know of outlet specific coupons, many of which will only be valid at that specific location.
Shop the Nike Hash Wall and Negotiate
Nike factory stores are among the most popular in the country. They carry a mixture of last season’s styles along with items made specifically for the outlet. Because of this mixture, it can be hard to determine where in the store the deals are located. You’ll save the most money on the back wall, termed the “Hash Wall”, at all Nike factory store locations. It’s where they stock all last of inventory shoes, as well as B-grade shoes. B-grade meaning shoes that may have a scuff mark on them 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 sales associate and pointing out the flaw. Start by asking for an additional 20% off the asking price, and depending on the imperfection, you stand a great chance of getting it, or something close.
Save Your Shopping for Outlet-Friendly Holidays
Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend are the two best weekends of the year to find outlet deals on clothing and shoes. This is because both weekends correspond to the end of a fashion season. Because of this, outlet stores add items to the clearance section in droves and pass the savings along to you. It’s a great time to stock up on the cheap for the following year. The single 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
Finally, be aware of the return policy at outlet stores. They can vary wildly. Some items are final sale and others require you to return items only to the outlet location. Outlet malls are often out in the middle of nowhere, so depending on how far you drove, returning items to the actual outlet could be a pain in the ass.
Never assume that just because you walk into an outlet location you’re going to find a steal. This may have been the case in the 80’s and 90’s, but nowadays some sleuthing is required.