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Not Impressed By Outlet Malls

February 28, 2012

I am not a big fan of shopping at outlet malls and here’s why.  Note that I’m mostly referring to the Banana Republic Factory Store, since I was at it recently.  I think these things are true for other stores, but I don’t have explicit  knowledge.

1.  They are typically far away and I’m all about convenience.  I have a zillion stores in a 5 mile radius, I’m not driving to outlet malls without a good reason.

2.  Most of the clothing in the stores was NEVER sold in the mall stores.  I hear people say that they are “last season” or clothes with inconsistent sizing.  In reality, most of it is made specifically for the factory outlet stores.  At BR outlet, things made for the exclusively for outlet have 3 dots on the tag beneath the label of “Banana Republic”.  Last weekend, I did not find a single item in the outlet store without three dots on the tag.

The styles are often very similar/identical, but the quality and fabric is often not the same.  I noticed this at the BR outlet I visited shortly after being in the real store.  This is OK if you judge the material to be sufficient for your needs, but just be an educated consumer and know what you are getting.  It is NOT the same dress you saw in the BR store.

3.  There are some cute things at good quality, but the prices are higher to match.  The only things I tried on and liked were things that were in the ballpark of what I’d pay at the regular store.  My friend put back a $50 top at the register because she had assumed it would be $20-$30, just because it was at the outlet.  There are some nice things, there are some cheap things, but I didn’t find anything cheap AND nice.

4.  The pricing system can be confusing.  Besides everything having a supposed discount from the BR store, the outlet mall was filled with random signs for various racks being 10%, 20%, 40% or even 50% off.  It was confusing to keep track of how much things were, and I think it was intentional.

I treat shopping at the outlet malls much like shopping at lower end stores like H&M, Target, or Old Navy.  I’ll do it occasionally to get some lower budget style/freshness in my wardrobe.  However, I have to be picky about fit and keep in check expectations for longevity of a piece.  More often than not, I’m happier shopping sale racks at my favorite stores.

How about you?  Are you a fan of factory stores?  How do you make sure you get the best value for your money?

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18 Comments leave one →
  1. February 28, 2012 6:22 am

    I’m not a fan either. Usually the stuff isn’t what I want exactly and the pricing is nearly the same.

  2. Stephanie permalink
    February 28, 2012 7:16 am

    My thoughts are exactly the same as yours. This stuff is not “last season’s clothes.” It is stuff specifically made for the outlet store.

  3. February 28, 2012 7:19 am

    I agree. I see the appeal of these outlet stores because the sale signs are so enticing, but I found all of the similar problems:

    1) Not the same styles as what is in the stores
    2) Similar, but of far lower quality
    3) Prices are not that great of a discount

    I didn’t know about the 3 dots thing, but I generally avoid outlet malls and go to the actual stores themselves. Then if I can afford the item and think it’s a good price for it even at full retail, I’ll wait for a sale or a coupon (depending on urgency) and buy it.

  4. Bonnie permalink
    February 28, 2012 8:03 am

    I would rather buy a few of the actual pieces that I really like in the main stores as opposed to a pile of crappily made, not-as-cute clothes at the outlet store.

    • February 28, 2012 8:08 am

      When you put it that way, I think anyone would agree with you! 🙂

      Yet a lot of people I know seem to be interested in outlet malls. I was drug to one recently, tried on things, and walked out with nothing!

  5. February 28, 2012 9:23 am

    I can’t stand factory stores/outlet malls. The one I went to in Italy was actually really good – high-end designers and they did have last season’s bags and shoes at great prices (think 60% off original price). This is great if you missed out on a color you wanted but couldn’t get your hands on when it was in season. But I just don’t have the patience to deal with the crowds, and I won’t go out of my way and waste my gas on going to one either.

  6. February 28, 2012 10:15 am

    There is an outlet mall about an hour away. We’ll typically go once or twice a year and make some other stops. There are a select few stores that we’ll go to. There is a couple kids clothing stores that have better deals on some stuff than we can ever find. There’s also a kids Stride Rite outlet that offers buy one get one half off on their shoes, which you never find on those shoes anywhere else. It’s all about knowing what to buy and where to buy it.

  7. February 28, 2012 12:01 pm

    I never go to outlet malls cause they are too far away and I don’t have a car. But I agree about the styles, a friend has taken me to the outlet mall a couple of times and I saw that most of the stuff looked like it had been stored for years, the styles were like what was in the stores for 3-4 years ago…

  8. February 28, 2012 1:59 pm

    I always find a serious decline in quality at outlet stores. I hate them. I’d rather just pay more and get quality clothing.

  9. February 28, 2012 2:11 pm

    Some people I know say that they get really good deals at J. Crew and higher-end stores (like Coach)? I’m not sure as I haven’t been in ages. For BR, I think you can get better deals if you just shop during sales. I don’t know if it’s common but once I was at a regular BR, they had an amazing 40% sales plus salespeople were handing out extra 25% off (or higher?) coupons to shoppers that weekend.

    • February 28, 2012 4:29 pm

      I’m not familiar with JCrew (though my random internet research said they operate similar to BR), but I do know most of the coach stuff is outlet specific as well.

      Everyone that shops outlets thinks they get really great ideas. Sometimes that is true, but i would encourage all shoppers to be savvy and be sure you know what you are buying.

  10. February 28, 2012 2:13 pm

    I love going at outlets although I agree that most of it is not “last season” or “defective”. Sometimes, the price isn’t even better either. If you know what the average price of something is, it makes it much easier to weed out the good deals from the bad deals. It definitely is further but I think that once in awhile, it’s worth it.

  11. February 28, 2012 9:38 pm

    I only go to them during the major holiday sales. Yes it is hectic crazy, but everything is off an additional percent. This past December I picked up some running shoes, hat, and socks for something like 70% off.

  12. February 29, 2012 8:19 am

    The J.Crew factory stores used to have the clearance stuff from J.Crew stores — or direct from the distribution center items that stores had no room to stock. NOW, they have their own line, this started I think like 2-3 years ago when First Lady Obama and Jenna Lyons started their reign! It is so disappointing to go in there and think, YAY! ballet flats for cheap, when they are $128, only $20 less than the retail price. That is not savings to me.

    It certainly isn’t worth it anymore unless they are true outlets – which seems to only happen with HIGH brow brands – like Brooks Brothers – OR with kitchen/home decor stores where they have merchandise all over creation and have to have factory stores to rid of extra product (like Pyrex cooking stuff, which is great).

    • Amy permalink
      July 2, 2013 7:16 am

      Are you blaming Obama? LOL
      Also – I used to work at Brooks Bros. Their outlet stores are also filled with “made for outlet” clothing. This was the case when I worked there 15 years ago. We were trained to spot the outlet tag in case someone tried to return and outlet item to the real store.

  13. SWR permalink
    March 1, 2012 4:40 pm

    I, personally, really enjoy outlet/factory shopping. “Sales” are marketing ploys to get shoppers in the door, but I’ve always found that “clearance” items are at steep discounts. And if you’re familiar with what a store currently has in their regular retail line, then it is pretty easy to spot what is current season and what is several years old.

    Ironically, Banana Republic Factory is probably my favorite store.

  14. Anonymous permalink
    December 20, 2014 3:58 pm

    I actually really like the BR factory stores. They have some decent styles that are not carried in the regular BR stores. I bought a very cute looking dark navy blue rain coat that I’ve never seen in regular BR stores, and I got lots of compliment on that. And they offer bigger promotions than the regular BR stores. Yes, some items are of less quality or the material is not as good. But you can find lots of stuff in regular BR stores with just the same low quality material. In fact, I found that the quality of clothing is getting lower and lower in the regular BR stores. Especially the past autumn season, it felt like the whole store was packed with junk. The factory stores, on the other hand, offer better values and selections.

    • December 20, 2014 5:02 pm

      This is totally true – if you go in with open eyes and know what you are buying, great. If you go in and think you are getting the same thing, you are (usually) not going to get a deal.

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