What You’ll Really Find
Back in the day, factory stores sold irregulars and overstock. Brands then began producing entirely different clothing for their outlets, and now the lines are completely blurred. “In modern outlet centers, there is really no difference between factory stores and outlet stores,” confirms Premium Outlets vice president Christine Greak.
Not Every Deal Is A Great Deal
Let’s talk about that higher price on the tag that highlights what you could have paid. “By legal definition, if you see the words ‘original price,’ that means something is reduced from a previous sales price,” says Ellwood. So, what about outlet-specific items? The higher price (often crossed out) is just going to be “a number that is low enough to be plausible, but high enough to offer a contrast with the lower price,” he explains. Be on the lookout for “outlet exclusive,” “compare at,” “retail value,” or any words except “original price,” the only one that denotes a price that has actually been charged for that item.
Do Your Prep Work
Your pre-shopping work involves a little more than whittling your wish-list down to the brands you know and love. You’ve also got to know their labels — literally.
Go In Person
With so many flash sales and discounters online, is it worth getting off your couch (and changing out of your PJs) to fight the hordes of hysterical bargain hunters in person? In a word: yes.
Know The Lay Of The Land
Mapping and pre-planning your shopping route makes for a more efficient day, but take it one step further once you’re inside the store. “The deepest discounts and clearance items are often at the back of the store,” Greak tells us. Outlets also tend to stash the clearance racks in the corners of the shop.
Play The Pricing Game
Hey, the clearance racks are at the back and corners for a reason — so you’ll have to venture through a sea of temptation to get there. “Eye-level merchandise is usually the priciest,” Mizhattan says. Also, big “sale” signs might not refer to discounted items; they’re just drawing you to products the store wants to move. The “buy one, get one free” or “X percentage off for-a-limited-time-only” strategies are meant to tempt you into buying more than you originally planned. (Which sometimes has its benefits, like when you find a shirt you love and can get it in three colors for cheap.)
First off, have a general game plan of what you want to buy before you hit the outlets. It’ll save time and hopefully guard against any distractions along the way. That said, be open to shopping off-season (like, buying a plush wool coat in the middle of July) because that’s when major deals abound. Also, “always buy classics,” Ellwood says. “If you can find cashmere that isn’t outlet specific nab it.” He suggests avoiding leftover “editorial” pieces; you won’t get much wear out of them for the price you pay.
Timing Is Everything
No matter when you go, Greak says outlet pricing will usually be between 25 to 65% off. But both she and Mizhattan suggest braving Black Friday (we know) for massive discounts. Last year at Woodbury Common, shoppers faced the challenge for sales like these: fancy La Perla bras reduced to $20, and an extra 25% off the lowest-ticketed price jewelry at David Yurman. Of course, deals always vary by individual stores.