ShopSmart Divulges Outlet Shopping Secrets

Jun 07, 2010, 18:00 ET from ShopSmart Magazine

How to Find High-Quality Items for Rock-Bottom Prices

YONKERS, N.Y., June 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The lure of big discounts at the outlet mall is strong. Even normally savvy shoppers are tempted and can go overboard. But are they really getting a great deal every time? The July 2010 issue of ShopSmart, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, went undercover to designers' retail stores, department stores and the outlets, buying the same items in each location, to find out when it pays to make the trip and when to stay closer to home.

"The trick to outlet shopping is knowing how to spot the best deals—and knowing when to leave something on the rack," said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. "So we did the legwork for you, sending out secret shoppers to see how the prices compared." Among the findings:

  • Prices are good, materials can vary: The outlet outfits ShopSmart purchased tended to be a lot less expensive—about 60 percent—but the materials and construction were also different, explaining some of the discounted price.
  • Shop the outlets from a computer: Lots of retailers have online outlet sites with all kinds of deals, saving you gas and toll money.
  • Outlets do carry current seasons at deep discounts: ShopSmart found that plenty of items were available in retail stores and the outlets at the same time, but the items in the outlets can save shoppers lots of money—more than 70 percent in some cases.
  • Prices are not always better at outlets: If you have a coupon or find a great sale, you may be able to get a better deal at a retail store.
  • Selection of size and colors vary: Outlets don't always have the best selection, so if a local store has an item you love it might be smart to snap it up there.

In ShopSmart's "Outlet Shopping Secrets" story readers will also find out how to tell if an item is

"outlet only," what's new in outlet shopping, how  to know if an outlet item is good quality, the best online outlet and an item-by-item comparison of a complete outfit ShopSmart purchased in the retail and outlet stores. Below is a sampling of some of ShopSmart's advice.

Smart Outlet Shopping Tips

Here are the insider tricks to get the best stuff at the best prices:


  1. Have a plan of attack: Check the outlet mall's website for maps, printable coupons and special promotions.
  2. Time it right: Outlets have similar schedules to retails stores; extra savings can be found around the holidays, though they will be much more crowded at those times.
  3. Get the Coupons: Major outlet malls offer coupon books at a cost, so check outlet websites  as some will have a voucher to get the book for free if  you sign up for their membership club.
  4. Log on: Check outlets' Facebook accounts. Also type in the name of the individual stores and the word "outlet" into a search engine and you may pull up additional savings.


  1. Spot the good stuff: Some outlets sell garments that were previously at retail stores while others sell lower-priced clothing made specifically for the outlet.  If you are uncertain, ask a salesperson.
  2. Don't go crazy: Just because it's in an outlet center doesn't mean deep discounts. The item could be the same price as regular full-price stores, so use your Web-enabled phone to go to a price-comparison site.
  3. Chat up the salesperson: You can find out little-known  details, like when new shipments will arrive and that prices ending in certain numbers can indicate a clearance or limited quantity item.
  4. Join the club: Many outlet stores have frequent-shopper programs that offer additional savings, such as coupons after you spend a set amount or bonus savings on your birthday.
  5. Understand the return policy: They are often stricter at outlets than at retail stores of the same name.

About ShopSmart magazine:

Launched in Fall 2006 by Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, ShopSmart draws upon Consumer  Reports'  celebrated  tradition  of  accepting  no  advertisements  and  providing  unbiased  product reviews. The magazine features product reviews, shopping tips on how to get the most out of products and "best of the best" lists. ShopSmart is ideal for busy shoppers who place a premium on time. ShopSmart has a newsstand price of $4.99 and is available nationwide at major retailers including Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, Borders, Kroger, Safeway and Publix. ShopSmart is available by subscription at

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SOURCE ShopSmart Magazine