What is outlet shopping?

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outlet store interior
Find the steepest discounts in the back of outlet stores
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Get the real skinny on what is outlet shopping, and tips for scoring great deals

Outlet shopping centers are brick and mortar stores typically located a far, but reasonably drivable distance from stores that sell the same items at full price. Shoppers make this drive because they think doing so will allow them to buy designer brands at drastic discounts. What began over a century ago as a simple way for manufacturers to sell excess inventory directly to consumers has become a huge part of the retail industry.

If youíve found occasion to seek out these discounts for yourself, you may have noticed that things have changed over the years. Outlet shopping stores online  and brick-and-mortar outlet centers have come a long way from the street level floor of factories and warehouses. Theyíre now rather easy to mistake for high end shopping centers Ö with a few minor differences.

There are over 13,000 outlet stores in the United States. Shopping at one goes a little something like this: You step into a well lit, beautiful store and an item catches your eye. You see an original price crossed off with the new, discounted price below. After driving all this way, you intend to spend money - or what was the point of the trip? You donít notice or care if the item is from the previous season so no longer worth the full price, and you donít know if the item was ever in the brand's full price retail shops. You like it. You buy it. It's a great deal.

Keep a few things in mind when outlet shopping, and you really can find fantastic deals on quality items.: 

* Rather than focusing on the full price and calculating how much money youíll save in buying an item, decide if the selling price is worth it to you. In other words, look closely at your items for frayed stitching and other signs of poor construction. 

* If you know youíre in the market for something specific, like a coat, bathing suit or dress, go online and research the brand before you head out. Know what styles are in season and get a general idea of what the merchandise sells for at full cost.

* Check out online discount sites that offer that same sort of discounts as outlet shopping centers from brands youíre likely familiar with, like Hanes. These sites save you gas money and time and make it easy to compare shop.

* Get coupons to maximize discounts. Before you leave the house, go to the outletís website and print coupons. Many outlet centers will poster coupons on the site for ten to twenty percent off. They also have information booths with a map and coupon book. Use the map to help organize your shopping if youíre in a hurry, and flip through the coupons before stepping into stores. 

* For further discounts, Consumer Reports recommends liking your favorite brands on Facebook and following them on Twitter for access to unique discount codes.

* Shop the back of the store first. This is where outlet stores keep clearance racks and items with the steepest discounts. 

* Find out the storeís return policy before you purchase. Return policies are typically more limited at outlets than other retailers.

Outlet shopping is a blast when you go with the same discerning eye you use in other stores. Split a treat at the food court so if you go home empty handed at least you had a nice day with a sugar rush to boot.

Consumer Reports
Insead: A Survey of Outlet Mall Retailing

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