Redbook Jul 23, 2015 @ 1:48
Save a ton If you’re spending a hard-earned day off— from work, kids, whatever—hunting bargains, know this: Being primed to buy doesn’t mean you need to succumb to every trick the discount stores have. We got the insider scoop so you can score a true deal.
By Tracy Shaffer
Nab free coupons. Most outlet malls offer coupon booklets with extra discounts for almost every store in the complex. Anyone can pick up one of these bad boys at the customer service desk for about $5 (worth it for the savings if you buy at least a couple of things). But there are ways around paying for the coupons, too, says Sarah Shah, stylist, shopping consultant, and author of Dress Yourself Skinny. Many outlet malls offer free weekly coupon books to loyalty-club members (some clubs are free, such as the Simon Premium Outlets VIP Shopper Club). Plus, AAA and AARP members, college students, and military personnel typically qualify for a free booklet. Just bring your card to customer service and ask.
Shop on a Wednesday or Thursday. If you can squeeze in some retail therapy during the workweek, don’t do it on a Monday or Tuesday—stock is still low from the insane hordes of weekend shoppers. Instead, wait until midweek for the freshest inventory and markdowns, Shah says. Bonus: You won’t have to elbow anyone out of the way to grab that cute cardigan.
Crack the retailer’s secret tag code. There’s only so much overstock retail stores don’t sell, yet the number of outlet malls keeps growing. Sound fishy? It is. Some “factory stores” mix in lower-quality goods made just for the outlets. Luckily, clothing tags offer hints about a garment’s origin. For example, Gap’s “madefor- outlet” merchandise has three dots below the tag’s Gap logo, while retail items have none. J.Crew’s factory-specific stuff has two small diamonds under the logo. But don’t write off the made-for-factory stuff altogether, says Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping. Often, brands simplify their regular offerings by taking out a button or a pleat; that change may not make a difference in how it looks, only in how it affects your wallet.
Go deep into left field. Most people are right-handed, which means the majority of shoppers naturally gravitate to the right side of a store. For this reason, outlets usually stash the biggest discounts in the back left-hand corner of the store, hoping that as many items as possible will catch your eye as you walk counterclockwise around the space, says Underhill. Save yourself some cash by making a beeline for the sale rack in the back left.
Ask for the good stuff. Salespeople know where all the super-bargains are lurking, so ask them what they think is the best deal in the store. “A salesperson at DKNY once ran me over to the most beautiful pair of shoes, hidden in the corner—$200 off!” Shah says. “Employees love to see people get deals too.” At the register, ask if there are additional discounts available: Often, salespeople can find a way to knock another 10 or 15 percent off an already-good price, Underhill says. Just be sweet as pie about it, and know when to back off— after all, this isn’t the Grand Bazaar. Don’t get “outlet fever” After hoofing it around all day, it’s easy to feel like you’ve got to leave with a trunkful of bags. Plus, frustration at not finding your white whale (is 90 percent off your dream dress too much to ask for?) can cause late-in-the-game buys that are bad for your bank account. Before you drive off, assess your haul: Were you seduced by a designer name or an extra-deep discount? If so, make returns right then. “The goal is to end up with a closet of things you love, not a closet of things you paid less for,” says David Zyla, coauthor of How to Win at Shopping.