They’re quite the destination spot all year long, but especially during the holidays. But do outlet malls save you money?
Consumer Reports surveyed 15,789 readers who made a combined 25,441 visits to outlet malls. The mag also did some shopping on their own.
Nearly 70 percent of Consumer Reports‘ readers say that they were completely or very satisfied with their experience. That’s about the same as how readers rate Costco, Kohl’s, and Target but not as good as shoppers generally rate Bon Worth, L.L.Bean, Haggar, Carter’s, OshKosh B’gosh, Jockey, Bose, Coach, Vitamin World, and Bath & Body Works.
The merchandise at the outlets is not always the same as what’s available in retail stores. For example, The Coach store carries one type of merchandise. The outlet has another.
“The retail version is made of a nice, heavy, embossed leather. It’s got a rounded top, so it sits nicely, and a rounded handle, which is more comfortable. The outlet version is a fine bag. It has a few less fine details and a flat handle,” Mandy Walker with Consumer Reports said.
Consumer Reports found that there’s a $100 difference between J.Crew’s ballet flats at the outlet and the ones available at its retail store.
“The shoes are very similar,” Walker said. “But the retail version is made of leather in Italy, and the outlet version is made in China of polyurethane. And the retail version also has a heel, which will provide much better support.”
And even when merchandise is identical, it’s not always cheaper at the outlet stores. A Corelle dinnerware set Consumer Reports found cost $5 more than it would have at the retail store.
As for customers’ rankings: When it comes to outlet malls, 8 percent said they found a poor selection of styles, sizes, or colors, and 6 percent said quality was disappointing.
And here’s something not everyone knows: Not all stores at outlet malls are outlet stores. Harry & David is a staple at 48 outlet malls but are actually retail stores. Only the majority of stories at an outlet mall must be outlet stores, according to most developer’s specs.
What about the deals at outlet stores?
Most ConsumerReports readers say they are generally happy with outlet deals. They say they get great value about two-thirds of the time and at 34 percent of stores, “prices were much lower than sale prices at regular stores.” Readers’ singled out Bon Worth, L.L.Bean, Haggar, OshKosh B’gosh, and Izod for superior value.
If you are annoyed because you are your spouse would like to save some bucks at the outlets but don’t have any near you. Don’t fret. According to BuzzFeed, you can shop 14 outlet stores online! Check out the outlets you can shop online here.
The bottom line: Some outlet stores offer “serious bargains on well-made merchandise sold by a knowledgeable and solicitous staff; others stock so-so goods at so-so prices. And, surprise, we found a few items at retail stores that cost less than identical outlet items.”