by Emma Gifford
Admit it: like many consumers, you’re a sucker for a good brand name. Sometimes it’s worth paying that little bit (or maybe more than a little bit) extra for a certain logo or designer brand; especially if you’re loyal to that company’s merchandise, fit, or style. But in this kind of economy, you also want a bargain. What to do?
It’s an easy answer: visit factory outlets and outlet malls.
In an otherwise struggling retail landscape, outlet shopping continues to grow by leaps and bounds. In the past year, factory outlets have produced double digit gains in growth (17.9% as of April 2011), outpacing even online sales for apparel and accessories. While there is not always a significant savings between third party retailers and the outlets on certain items, outlets often sell returned, discontinued, and off-season products at heavily discounted prices, making them a key destination for shoppers interested in quality brand name and designer products that are easy on the wallet.
- Do some research beforehand. Just because a store claims to be an outlet or happens to be located in an outlet mall doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll find great deals. Before you go, take a look at reviews, or even the store website, to get an idea of their prices.
- Monitor prices online to see what high-end department stores are charging for designer goods to get a good point of comparison, so you know if you’re getting a good deal.
- Check the outlet mall’s website before your trip to look for coupons, special events, and sales. Be sure to ask salespeople at the store about coupons when you arrive, as sometimes they will hand out discount deals of up to 30% on purchases. Also check individual stores’ websites and sign up for any mailing lists that will notify you about major shopping events.
- Outlets are busiest during peak travel seasons, so if you can go during the off-season, or between seasons, you will get better buys and avoid the crowds.
- Set a shopping budget and stick to it! If you’re shopping for specific items, make a list and refer to it throughout your trip to prevent yourself from making impulse buys.
- The best bargains will be hidden in the back of the store or displayed up front to attract customers. Don’t spend too much time in the middle.
- Leave yourself enough time to visit multiple outlet stores. Outlet shopping can be unpredictable, but by visiting more than one store you’ll give yourself more selection and a greater chance of success.
- Wear comfortable shoes! If you’re visiting multiple stores, you could be in for hours of walking.
- If you’re a really hardcore shopper, carry a small notepad with you to make note of good deals when you see them. Wait to make purchases until after you’ve checked out all of the stores that interest you. If you’ve found something special and want to make sure it isn’t purchased in your absence, you can always ask the salesclerk to hold it at the register until you return.
- Examine your purchases carefully before you leave the outlet store, especially if an item is marked “irregular.” If you’re on vacation, you might have to make a long trip to return or exchange a faulty item.
Often, outlet stores are located slightly off the beaten path, and at least an hour or two from major urban centers. If you don’t feel the urge to drive yourself, TakeTours can help you! Our vendors offer bus tours that visit outlets throughout the United States, including the Tanger Outlets on Long Island and in California, the Wrentham Village Outlets in Massachusetts, the Waikele Premium Outlets in Hawaii, the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets in New York, and more. Happy shopping!
Emma Gifford is a full-time college student and a summer intern here at TakeTours.com. Her favorite travel destinations include Quebec City, Quebec and Paris, France, and she has plans to visit many more exciting places in the future.