5 Things to Know When Shopping at Outlet Malls


shopping at outlet mallsI’m not a huge fan of clothes shopping, but at the same time, I don’t despise it either. I usually will wait until I need some items, stock up and be done with it. My trips usually start out at my local shopping mall where I will buy items depending on how great of a discount I get. From there, I’ll go shopping at outlet mall near my parents and pick up a few more items.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that shopping at outlet malls isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Everywhere you read, people are raving about the prices and deals. Yes there are deals, but many times, they are not as good as you might think. Below is a list a handful of things to keep in mind when shopping at outlet malls.

Shopping At Outlet Malls – Things To Know Before You Buy

Prices Aren’t Dirt Cheap

If you are going shopping at outlet malls hoping to get a $500 pair of jeans for $10, you are out of luck – you aren’t going to find that great of a deal. But for the most part, the price of items will be cheaper than in the regular store.

Case in point: I shop at Banana Republic. When I walk into their regular store, a dress shirt ranges from $50 to $80. At the outlet mall, the store has shirts for $40 plus a discount. I can usually get my dress shirts for around $25.

Not All Coupons and Gift Cards Work

If you can’t sleep at night, you might try reading the fine print on the back of your gift cards. Some gift cards and coupons state that they are not valid at the outlet store. So before you think you are going to get an excellent deal, make sure you read the fine print. In many cases, the store has separate coupons specifically for their outlet stores. Nothing is worse than loading up on clothes and then at the register finding out the coupon isn’t valid.

Different Merchandise

If you go the mall and see a great shirt and think you’ll just go to the outlet store and get it cheaper, think again. Rarely does the outlet store have the same items.

When I shop at Banana Republic, I almost never see the same items in both stores. Many times it is merchandise made specifically for the outlet store. Other times it is last season’s leftovers.

Just recently I was looking for new winter jacket. I found one I loved made by The North Face. Instead of buying it, I took a trip over to the outlet mall where there is a North Face store. When I walked in I was greeted with completely different merchandise. When I asked the clerk about the model of jacket I was looking for, he said they didn’t have it.

Quality Varies

As mentioned above, some stores make merchandise specifically for the outlet stores. To offer the lower price, the manufacturer will use a lower qualify material. Don’t let this worry you too much. I have not had any issues with the clothing I buy at the outlet stores. If it is a store you have never heard of before, you may want to be a bit hesitant. But a store like Calvin Klein is not going to let their brand be destroyed by using material that is not close to what they use in their main stores.

But with that said, it is important to take note of the clothes in the regular store before heading to the outlets. When I was shopping for a polo shirt, I found the outlet mall version to be very thin and light compared with the store at the regular mall. Same thing for a t-shirt.

I was looking for some low price shirts for working out and doing things around the house in. At the mall, the shirts were $20 and up. At the outlets, the price was $7 but they were so thin they might as well have been an undershirt. It wouldn’t have lasted a year before completely falling apart.

Additionally, sometimes the items in the outlet store are there because they are damaged goods. Usually it is a very slight imperfection, but big enough to warrant it unsellable at the main store. Be sure to look over the item in question to see any possible defects before buying.

Know The Return Policy

Unlike stores in the shopping mall where as long as the tag is still attached you can return the item, outlet malls are a little different. Many still honor the new with tag return, but others only offer a 90-day or 120-day return. Some don’t allow any returns whatsoever. This is especially true on final markdown or clearance items. Make sure before you purchase something that you are aware of that stores return policy.

Final Thoughts

Overall, shopping at outlet malls can yield some great savings. You just have to know what you can expect going in and don’t go in thinking that you can’t find a better deal someplace else. With all of the coupon sites online along with free shipping, many times, shopping online will get you as good of a deal or even better than when shopping at outlet malls. At that point, the key then is to actually sock away the money you saved as opposed to spending it elsewhere.

Readers, what deals do you find when shopping at outlet malls?

9 thoughts on “5 Things to Know When Shopping at Outlet Malls”

  1. I love me my outlet malls, though in Canada they kind of suck. The states is a whole other thing though, but that could be just because I’m from Vancouver and prices are ridiculous here. It’s definitely good to have a realistic perspective on what kind of deals you can actually get at outlet malls and be prepared to not be able to return items too.

  2. I also faced problem with the invalid coupons on some of the stores at malls while outside the malls those coupons were valid, so I got my stuff outside and this caused me some waste of time and a little tiredness due to the company policies.

  3. Kevin@Financial principles

    We must control how we spend in malls.If you are not in control of your finances then your finances will be in control of you,which is a very terrible situation to be in

  4. Many outlet malls offer their own coupon booklets. I have found some stores carry the current line of clothes. But when shopping for certain items like standard black or blue dress pants they don’t have to be the latest. I can save the money at the outlet.

  5. I am a fan of both shopping online and at outlet malls. But, I kinda prefer at outlet malls as I can really pick the right product and compare prices. Before doing this, I look for coupons first so that I can save as much as 20%-50% of the price.

  6. Jon,

    So funny – my wife and I were just talking about this the other day. Outlet malls seemed to be such a great bargain 10 years ago, but now that just sort of seem blah. You can often just do much better online these days when purchasing clothes and other sorts of items that you’d find in an outlet mall.

  7. Good points you discuss here as outlet malls have lower prices for cheaper materials. Granted we never really know how long things will last. Its all a risk, and you have to judge the quality at first glance to make an estimate. I like to now shop only when its needed, and on rare occasions. This helps to minimize clothing expenses.

  8. It’s been years since I’ve shopped at an outlet mall. Ironically, the only one I visited with any regular frequency was exactly what you have in the picture above – the Nike outlet store. I agree – outlet stores can often yield decent bargains, but you aren’t necessarily going to be making out like a bandit all the time. I think lots of folks justify spending extra on stuff because they “got a great deal” at an outlet store.

  9. Good to know that not all the coupons or gift cards work in outlet malls.
    I used to (maybe 5 years ago?) shop a lot at outlet malls and I thought I was saving money, maybe it was true at that time but lately I found online often has fantastic deals that Outlet malls simply cannot compete with. For example, Kohls often offer 30% off coupons and free shipping, there’s also portal shopping commision, and I never get T-shirts for more than $5 any more. In my opinion, eventually most of the physical stores will lose out to online shopping.

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