Outlet store shopping secrets

June 16, 2010 8:43:02 PM PDT
While many retailers have been struggling during the recession, outlet malls are expanding?building new malls and signing up new retailers. Outlets can save you big money?as much as 70 percent according to Consumer Reports ShopSmart magazine. Some outlets carry the exact same items as regular retail stores, but others don't.

ShopSmart compared prices of two outfits, one bought from retail stores, the other from merchandise specially made for the outlet stores. The retail outfit totaled $771. The one from the outlets, $312?less than half the cost.

The Banana Republic skirt cost $79 dollars retail and $30 dollars at the outlet. ShopSmart found that the outlet skirt has a bit of polyester in it. So it's machine washable, which is convenient. But the flagship skirt is less likely to pill and it has a lot nicer lining.

The J. Crew blouse is $88 dollars retail and about $48 at the outlet. Both blouses are made of pure silk. But the edges of the ruffles on the outlet store blouse are more likely to fray.

And then there are the two Coach bags?$448 retail, $130 at the outlet. The store bag has softer leather, softer lining. It's got more pockets and sturdier hardware.

ShopSmart's take: If you're looking for something that's going to last through a lot of wear and tear, like a bag or shoes, you might want to spend more on a better-made item. If you're shopping for price alone, the outlets almost always win.

ShopSmart says be aware return policies at outlets can be stricter than retail stores, so you want to be sure to check the policy when shopping.

Another great way to save more is to join the frequent-shopper programs available at many outlet stores like Crabtree and Evelyn, Jockey and Maidenform. These programs offer coupons and give you bonus savings on your birthday.

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