Who does not love to save money and get things for a cheaper price? Who can resist a bargain? There are lots of ways to save money on our purchases and outlet malls may be just the ticket for a variety of items ranging from clothing to electronics. But, there are some things to know to make sure you get the best deals.
Do a Bit of Homework Before You Go
Outlet stores can be a great bargain but they are not always necessarily so. Doing a bit of research on the items you plan to purchase can help determine if you are getting the best prices there. Many items will contain the suggested selling price and the discounted price and it can make it look like you are getting a steal, but for some items, such as end-of-season clothing pieces, they may be marked down even less in a regular store looking to clear out to make room for a new season of clothing.
You will usually not be able to compare various brands in the same outlet store so it is good to get an idea beforehand of what different items are selling for. If you go into the shopping experience armed with some general knowledge about what things are costing elsewhere, you will be able to tell if you are actually getting a deal on the items you want. If you are going to take the time to travel out to the sticks, where outlet malls are typically located, for the specific purpose of saving money, it is important to figure out if you actually will. One study found that people at outlet malls spent 79 percent more than they would have at regular stores—some of this may be the intoxication of buying things you do not need because they seem cheap, but another part is paying more for things that they may have gotten more cheaply somewhere else.
Items at Outlet Stores May Be Different in Many Ways
If you are shopping at your favorite brand name store and you think you will be able to snag the same clothing items at the outlet, think again. Most items available at the outlet will not be the same as the ones available in the regular stores; clothing outlets for example, may be stocked with last season’s fashions, for example. Also, the quality may be inferior. Many clothing manufacturers specifically make clothes for their outlet stores and in order to keep the prices low, the quality is usually not as good—this does not mean it is bad, but you may be disappointed to find the clothes may not seem as nice as their retail, full-price counterparts. Manufacturers of other types of goods may do this same thing.
Check Items Carefully
Many items end up in outlet stores because they are irregular in some way and not suitable for purchase in regular stores. In most cases, the problems are nothing major and the merchandise is perfectly fine, but it is important to carefully inspect items to make sure they are useable or wearable. If you are buying something like electronics, make sure you have a good understanding of the warranty should you have any problems in the future. Be cautious with bigger, more expensive items, such as appliances and electronics; if you are buying refurbished goods for example, you may end up spending more money in the long run on repairs.
Know the Return Policy
Return policies usually differ from regular retail stores and it is important to know the policy for the store and/or for the different items you purchase. Some may have a limit on how long you can return the item, while others may only allow returns in very limited circumstances or not at all. Do not just assume you can bring something back if there is a problem or if you decide you have no use for the item once you bring it home.
Prices May Be Negotiable
Unlike a regular store where set prices are in play, outlet malls may have some wiggle room in certain instances and it cannot hurt to ask. The worst they will say is no. For example, if the display item is the last available product, you may be able to get it at a discount. If an item is damaged in some way or you want to buy more than one of something, ask if you can get a price break.
Before you head to the outlets, make sure you check online for manufacturer coupons made specifically for their outlet stores. Some of them, such as the Coach outlet, offer significant savings with printable online coupons. If you have coupons for any of your favorite stores, read the fine print to see if you are able to use them in outlet stores—often times, you will not be able to. Same goes with gift cards.
Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who covers a variety of topics. If you are in the market for a new purse, check out the stylish handbags of WildPair.