Outlet Stores

Shopping at Outlet Stores
Is it a good deal?

By Debra L. Karplus

In an April 2013 report from Consumer Reports (www.consumerreports.org), it stated that outlet shopping has become a thirty billion dollar a year industry. Whatever the economy, outlet stores seem to be thriving. But is purchasing from an outlet store a good deal for shoppers like you?

What is an outlet store?

There are many things that an outlet store is not. Outlet stores are not resale, thrift or consignment stores like Goodwill or Salvation Army stores; the goods that you buy at outlet stores are new merchandise, not used. Outlet stores are also not buying clubs like Sam’s Club or Costco; at outlet stores you buy reasonable quantities of goods, not items in bulk.

Outlet stores are branches of store you are probably familiar with that sell goods not currently selling at their regular retail stores. These items may or may not be last year’s styles. They may or may not be of a lesser quality than you find in their regular retail stores. Typically, outlet stores are located in malls that exclusively house several outlet stores and no other retail stores. Outlet malls can be found in large cities like Chicago, but also in smaller towns often located along a major interstate highway. such as Tangor Outlets Stores in Tuscola, Illinois, just off Interstate 57 in East Central Illinois.

Which are some retailers that also have outlet stores?

If you have been to more than one outlet mall, just like regular malls, the same stores seem to appear at outlet malls, too. If you are shopping for apparel, you might find Coldwater Creek Factory Store; children’s apparel at the outlet mall is likely to be found at the Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Store. Expect to find accessories at the American Eagle Outfitters. Outlet mall footwear is often at the Hush Puppy Merrell Sebago store.

Corningware Corelle and More sell housewares and home furnishings at outlet malls. Specialty items might be at the Bath and Body Works Outlet. And you will find food at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. These are just a few of the many popular stores located in outlet malls.

Bakery outlet stores, such as Aunt Millie’s, are a bit different than other outlet stores, mainly because they sell perishable goods. A loaf of bread or dinner rolls has a limited shelf life. (If it doesn’t have a limited shelf life, than it has way too many preservatives and chemicals for you to ingest!) Bread outlet stores usually sell day old bread of commercial brands. If you don’t make your own bread or buy bread from a supermarket bakery department or a real bakery, and bread lasts a few days at your house, then day old bread at a discounted price is a very good deal. After all, any bread that you buy or even bake becomes day old bread unless you and your family eat the entire loaf on the day of the purchase! You may have discovered that many of the more well-known bakery outlet stores have closed in the past couple of years.

What are online outlet stores?

If you think about online outlet stores, Overstock.com comes to mind. Looking on Overstock’s website, they say that they are a “discount retailer”, but it’s not really clear about the source of the home furnishings, bed and bath products, and apparel for men and women, jewelry and watches, health and beauty supplies or electronics that they sell at discounted prices.

Search on yahoo.com and click on “finances” and you can find more detailed information about OSTK (Overstock.com) which is a publicly traded stock on the NASDAQ exchange. According to the company’s profile, Overstock is an online retailer selling discounted brand names, non-brand names, and discontinued merchandise.

Are purchases from outlet stores really good deals?

Before you set foot in an outlet store or outlet mall or shop at an online outlet vendor, you need to know specifically what product your are looking for or if you have some flexibility on color, size, style or quantity, for example, to determine how serious a shopper you really are. But more important, you must be a shopper experienced enough to know value and quality on a specific purchase. That discounted ladies leather purse at the accessory outlet shop may have sloppy seams or a weak zipper; however good the price appears is insignificant if the purse falls apart in a month.

Shopping from retailers who promote their outlet status is a wonderful way to find great bargains if you know what you are doing. Do a little research before pulling out your credit card at the outlet store and you will likely be a happy customer.

This article by Debra Karplus first appeared on Debra Karplus, freelance writer and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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