Plenty of people love to visit outlet malls in search of great deals on designer brands. Even though regular malls are going the way of the dinosaur, outlet malls are reporting higher sales than ever. But after purchasing some items from outlet stores that didn't seem to hold up we began to wonder if the products were as good as the ones purchased in regular stores. Since many people will travel long distances for a shopping trip, and feel compelled to spend more than they normally would since they traveled so far, we did some research to see if outlet malls are worth the trip.
What we learned made us think twice about buying at these outlet malls again. It turns out that outlet stores use some tricks to get your money, and these deceptive practices have been the subject of investigation as reported by Consumer Affairs. It turns out that the stuff you're buying might not be as good as you think. And it's probably way over priced. Read on to find out more.
Myth: It's Designer Goods at Cheap Prices
The stuff you find at an outlet store is often made specifically to be sold at a cheaper price. That means you're not getting the exact same quality as you would if you paid full price. Basically, a lot of the time your buying a knock off. Outlet malls target what the industry calls "aspirational shoppers" - people who want to flash the designer brands but who can't really afford it. So designers stamp their logo on inferior quality goods that have compromises to reach a lower price point. Things like buttons and fabrics could be inferior, or patterns that were not part of the regular lineup are made just for the outlets. Think of it as buying an item that was inspired by a designer brand.
Myth: It's the Same Quality
Well yes, you can get designer brands at discounted prices but often the products sold at an outlet store are not the same quality you would get at a regular store. You can find plenty of deals on last seasons apparel and gear, but you are also likely to find a lot of factory seconds that can't be sold at full price. If you're buying designer wear because it lasts longer this might not be the case with 'slightly imperfect' merchandise. So you might get a Coach bag at a lower price, but it could come with a few flaws like stitching that is out of place. If your okay with that then great, but then the deal probably isn't as good as you think.
Myth: The Discounts are Huge!
Sure it sounds great - half off today only! but the savvy shopper doesn't fall for the gimmick of big discounts. Outlet malls place artificially high prices on their merchandise then offer huge discounts to make it seem like your getting a great deal. The study we mentioned even found that many outlet mall prices are actually higher than what you would normally pay.
That means that even after the discount you're paying pretty close to full retail price for what might be a defective or lesser quality item. Imagine you were having a yard sale and priced all of your old stained t-shirts for $100 each, then offered everyone half off today only. It's pretty obvious that the shirts are still way overpriced - yet people fall for the same type of gimmick at outlet malls.
Myth: Outlet Malls Cater to the Affluent Shopper Looking for a Deal
Nope. Building in rural areas means that brands can target a new market - the middle class and working class who don't have easy access to designer brands but who want to wear the latest fashions. These aspirational shoppers can get a taste of luxury without going far from home. Affluent buyers are enticed to make the long trip with the promise of huge discounts which we have already shown are not as good as you think.
Developers place outlet malls in areas between large cities to draw as large of an audience as possible, luring buyers from multiple metropolitan areas with those discounts. So if you are the affluent shopper who drove a long distance, you're probably going to buy something just to justify the trip. And rural shoppers who wouldn't otherwise buy these brands now can. But the real reason that outlet malls tend to be far away is because they get better land deals in rural or remote areas. Developers often get tax breaks from local officials hoping to bring new jobs into an underdeveloped area.
Should You Still Shop at Outlet Malls?
Sure, you can still find good deals on designer brands at an outlet mall. Just keep in mind that what your buying might not be the same quality or latest style that you think it is. If you know what you're looking for, inspect any potential purchase closely to make sure that the stitching is correct. If it's not, make sure that the price is reflected appropriately if it is a factory second. When shopping for appliances, make sure that all features of a similar store bought model are listed. Often outlet appliances will have fewer features to keep the price down. You can always use your cell phone to search for an item on Amazon or your favorite retailer to check that it's a good deal as well.
Comment below and tell us what you think of outlet malls:
Do they have great deals or just lower quality merchandise?