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My girls and I have been at the beach for the last week (take a peek in my Instagram Highlights under “ROAD TRIP” here), and wanted to get a little back to school shopping out of the way while we were there. But, going through store after store made me wonder – are outlet malls really worth it?
Sure they offer great prices on name brand clothing/accessories, but sometimes you wonder just how good a deal you're really getting. I do think there are some really good deals, some just okay deals, and some not-so-amazing deals ~ you just have to know what to look for.
My thoughts overall? Outlet shopping can be awesome, but know going in that some of the items are not really “outlet pricing” ~ they're actually a store offering a completely different line of clothing at “outlet” prices. If you're okay with that (I usually am as long as the quality is good!) it's not that big a deal, but know that going in may change what you purchase.
I love Outlet malls for the “basics” ~ tees, jeans, socks, shoes, backpacks . . . and think their prices on these items tend to be better than Walmart or Target pricing on better quality items. But, I think if you watch for sales or clearance in stores or online you may find a few better deals on other things to round out your shopping list.
And, in case you're interested my girls and I only bought ONE THING at the Outlet malls ~ a new North Face Backpack for Reagan (it was $39 ~ regularly $69.) They realized they have plenty already in their closets at home, and we're working hard on reaching our long term financial goals, so we skipped that one this week! See more in my Instagram Highlights under “ROAD TRIP” here.
I asked PPP readers and team members for their favorite outlet mall shopping tips – please leave yours in the comments too!
12 Tips for Shopping Outlet Malls
1. Wear comfortable shoes. 🙂
You'll be running into numerous stores, digging through bargain bins and hefting hangers full of clothing aside – don't let your shoes or clothing make you miserable!
2. Know your prices . . . not everything at an outlet mall is a good deal.
Having a smartphone to look up regular prices is super handy during those uncertain moments. Check the retail websites to see if those advertised discounts of 60-80% OFF are really as great as they seem. *And keep in mind that the quality of the item may be inferior to the retail stores… (more about that in tip #4)
3. Look for coupons and discounts.
Before you arrive: Check outlet mall websites to see if they offer coupons. Certain outlets even have special savings clubs you can join – for instance Premium Outlets' VIP Shopper Club is FREE to join and you'll receive printable and online coupons and special event notifications. Tanger Outlets charges a one-time $10 fee to join their TangerClub.
Once you're there: Head to the info desk to see if they offer coupon booklets. Sometimes you can even buy gift cards at a discounted price at the mall office. Also some stores have a daily deal – if you don't see it advertised, ask about it!
4. Check the quality of the item.
Some stores produce lower quality products for the outlets (thinner fabrics, inferior workmanship). For instance – Gap and Banana Republic Outlets ONLY carry clothing that's made specifically for the outlet. (None of it is marked down overflow from the retail stores) While they haven't come right out and said it's inferior quality, you have to conclude that they're using cheaper fabrics or finishing touches to stock their outlet stores at cheaper prices.
5 . Shop OUT of Season
Pick up winter goods in the summer and vice versa to get deep-deep discounts!
6. Check for Military & Group Discounts
Many of the stores will give discounts, but don’t necessarily advertise it. (example: AARP, AAA, Senior Citizen, etc.). Check into guest services with your military ID as well. There is usually a different coupon book available than what is offered to the general public.
7. Get the outlet mall app on your phone.
Some outlet stores have more coupons on their app in addition to the ones you can get at the info desk and email!
8. Check return policies, just in case.
If something you bought at an outlet mall doesn't work out – you may be able to return it at the regular store. (For instance, Express allows this up to 60 days after purchase) But not always! Check the policy to make sure.
9 . Hit the Clearance Section
Make a trip to the clearance section before hitting the rest of the store – that's where you'll find hidden treasures that have been marked down extra.
10. Look for an imperfect section
PPP Team member Becky says her husband has been buying 70 or 80 dollar pairs of jeans for $10 because a stitch was missed, or one pocket is a 1/4 inch shorter than the other one!
11. This may sound strange…
But if you have a stroller, bring it! The packages get heavy and there are no carts. You can put everything in the stroller to walk around. ~ Rachael
12. Set a budget!!!
Don't feel pressured to buy more than your budget allows JUST because you're at an outlet mall.