Uncovering The Myth Behind Outlet Malls

WHAT?  Sweaters in July?!

It’s almost depressing to think that after the 4th of July, stores start gearing up for the fall by stocking their shelves with pants, sweaters and scarfs.  Whether we want to admit to it or not, the brutal truth is that back to school shopping will soon be upon us.  When I was growing up, back to school shopping almost always meant a trip to the closest outlet mall.  As a kid, outlet malls were great because the steep discounts they promised made it way easier to convince mom to buy the name brand jeans rather than the generic brand.
As college age students, many of us still carry on this tradition today!  When it’s time to re-stock the wardrobe, outlet malls always seem like a great option because of the price.  However, at the end of the day, even outlet malls are still businesses looking to create a profit.  While I don’t want to rag on them or persuade you to stop shopping at them, here are some important tips to remember next time you take a trip to the outlet mall.


They, too, are out to make money…

When we see those big red signs that say 50% off the full price, we get pretty excited right?  However, the truth is that these companies are allowed to set the “full price” at whatever number they want.  What was originally a $60 item gets jacked up to be $100 and then brought back down to $50 just so they can say they gave it to you half off.  In reality, when compared to the original price, that 50% discount is really only a 16% discount.  Stores bank on the fact you’ll be so impressed by the percentage on the sign that you’ll not take the time to think about what it is really worth.

Quality, quality, quality

We often hear that outlet stores are cheaper because they are overstock items.  While this may be true for some stores, a majority of companies manufacture products at a lower quality specifically for outlet locations.  By using cheaper fabrics and poorer construction quality techniques, they find ways to cut costs while keep the name brand.  We never noticed this as a kid because we grew out of the clothes before they had a chance to wear out.   Furthermore, it’s important to know that the return policies can change radically between retail stores and outlet stores due to the difference in quality.  This is especially important if you are buying these items as gifts! (cough cough significant others cough)

Check those tags

Most stores that sell imperfect products tag those clothing items differently so that they don’t get confused with full retail items.  These tags are often cut, stickered, or marked to show that they were not fit for retail sale.  Keep a mental picture in your head of what the typical brand name logo looks like.  Some stores simply reverse the colors on the tag to show that they are a lower quality item.  Tags that are normally blue with white writing could be white with blue writing instead.  Keep a keen eye open and beware!

Location, location, location

Have you ever noticed that most outlet stores are located in the middle of nowhere?   Most of us would be hard pressed to find an outlet store that doesn’t take at least 30 minutes to travel to.  This is because they assume that the consumer will associate lower prices with a more rural area.  They also know that if you drive 45 minutes out of your way, most shoppers will feel guilty about driving home with nothing.  By wasting all of that gas, they trick you into feeling guilty over not spending more money! 
Like I stated before, I am by no means trying to sway anyone away from these stores.  I’m simply throwing this message out there so that you can keep your head on your shoulders when shopping at an outlet mall.  Don’t let retail stores trick you into being less frugal than usual.  If you clip coupons and hunt for clearance racks, keep it up!  Even at outlet malls!  Combining your normal shopping techniques with the lower prices can really allow you to walk away with more product and money in your wallet.  Stay one step ahead of the marketing whizzes out there and be confident that YOU are in control of YOUR money.
Until next time,