Outlet malls have become a popular shopping destination for bargain hunters looking to save money on clothing, shoes and home goods. With more and more discount centers popping up all over the country each year, the opportunity to save big bucks is growing. However, not everything sold at such outlet stores is truly a good deal. From limited returns to lesser quality merchandise, there’s more you need to know before your next outlet center trip.
Find out how to identify the real deals from the duds and save even more money with these outlet-store shopping tips.
Map out a shopping route
With anywhere from 50 to over 100 factory stores in one location, outlet centers can be an overwhelming place to shop. Mapping out a route of stores you want to hit beforehand will make for a more efficient day. You can access the outlet center’s store directory online to pre-plan a shopping route and find the best place to park.
Know what you’re buying
While some of the merchandise sold at an outlet is left-over inventory sent from the traditional retail, other items may be designed and manufactured specifically for the discounter. These items are usually made with lesser quality materials which allows for a lower price point. Don’t get fooled into buying something you perceive to be a better value than it actually is. Ask a sales associate to identify which products are from the regular retail line and which were made for the outlet to help you make a better buying decision.
Many factory stores offer coupons that you can stack on top of a sale or discount price, saving you anywhere from an additional 10% to 50% off. Head over to the outlet center’s welcome center for a book of current coupons. Otherwise, sign up for the outlet centers reward program online to get deals via email. By joining Simon’s Premium Outlets VIP Shopper Club, for example, you’ll receive exclusive online coupons, a voucher for a free savings passport and email updates on upcoming sale events. You can also access such deals on your smartphone using the Coupon Sherpa mobile coupon app for savings to the Banana Republic Factory Store, J Crew Factory Store, Adidas Outlet and more.
Take advantage of holiday sales
Popular holiday weekends like Labor Day, Columbus Day and Memorial Day are the prime time to shop at outlet centers as you’ll find store-wide sales offering an additional 30% to 50% off already reduced prices. Though such holidays will draw larger crowds, you can beat the rush by arriving before stores open on Saturday or Sunday morning and get first in line. If you can swing a weekday trip, such holiday sales will likely begin before the weekend on Thursday or Friday, giving you the first pick of the best bargains.
The best deals at any outlet store will be on end-of-season merchandise. You’ll find deep discounts on warm weather clothing such as tank tops, shorts and sandals at the end of summer and better deals on winter apparel after the holidays. Since last season’s pieces tend to be placed on the store’s perimeter and in the back of the shopping area, search these areas first to snag the biggest bargains.
Leave your credit cards at home
Outlet centers are filled with endless sales that will tempt even the most conscientious shopper into making impulse purchases. The best way to stick to your budget and avoid overspending is to leave your credit cards at home and shop with cash. With cash, spending more than you intend requires going to a bank or ATM which gives you time to reconsider an unnecessary purchase. Plus, it’s harder to part with actual dollars than it is to swipe a piece of plastic.
Review return policies
Return policies vary from store to store and may be limited to just 30 days or restricted to exchanges only, so it’s important to review these terms before making a purchase. This is especially important for any items marked as final sale which may not qualify for a return or exchange at all. If you live a considerable distance from the outlet center, don’t buy anything that you aren’t absolutely sold on because chances are you will miss the time you have to return or exchange and get stuck with something you don’t want or need. And, that’s a total waste of money!