Outlet centers are growing in an opposite ratio to the dying mall industry. More and more outlet centers are being built with new retail offerings. You can now find high-end stores like Calvin Klein, as well as middle-of-the-road merchants like American Eagle Outfitters and Victoria's Secret. Word on the street is that Bloomingdale's outlet stores will open around the country this year.
The reason for all this growth, naturally, is the savings to be had. You really can find rock-bottom prices at outlet malls and you can save even more, if you know the following nine insider tricks to outlet shopping.
1. Timing Is Everything
Outlets schedule their sales at the same times as retailer stores. You'll find extra savings on Memorial Day, Black Friday, after the Christmas rush, etc. Be aware, however, that outlets can be even bigger zoos than the mall on these high-traffic days.
2. Find The Coupons
Major outlet malls often offer coupon books, but they also may charge for them. You might pay anywhere from $5 to $10, so forgo the book and check for online coupons. Do the math before you pounce on coupon items, however. You usually can't combine coupons at outlet stores, so you may actually get a better deal at the retail store.
3. Log In
Google for the outlet's website by searching for the store name followed by "outlet." You might find programs that send regular emails with special deals available only to members.
4. Have A Plan
Before you go, check the mall's website to create a plan of attack. Look for a list of stores, a downloadable map, directions to the mall, etc. Write down your plan so you can avoid checking every nook and cranny for the stores you want.
5. Check The Quality
Not all merchants sell the same products at their outlets as their retail stores. The prices may be lower, but you'll sometimes find the quality is equally low. Watch for irregulars, different manufacturers, and bait-and-switch tactics.
6. Join In
Many outlet shops provide loyalty or rewards cards, which offer such additional savings as special coupons and bonus savings. Ask the sales clerk for more information.
7. Don't Go Wild
It's easy to overspend at outlets, particularly when you keep seeing "70% off" signs everywhere. Just because it's an outlet doesn't mean the deals truly are all that good.
8. Research Return Policies
Return policies can be restrictive at outlet stores since what they're trying to do is get rid of excess inventory. Ask if you can return an item before you fork over your money or you may get stuck with something you didn't really want.
9. Talk To Sales Reps
Shop when the stores are empty and sales clerks are more willing to guide you towards the best deals or identify when new merchandise will arrive.