When it comes to outlet malls, what's not to love? They offer names, great fashion, and lower prices than at the mall.
And in these inflationary times, they can be a great option for saving money on your favorite brands.
But it's important to know that the items you see at an outlet store might not be the same items you'd find at the mall.
And that means you're not always getting the same merchandise you see in department stores, according to a report by the Krazy Coupon Lady.
Heather Wheeler, the co-founder of the Krazy Coupon Lady shopping blog, says many outlets no longer sell overstock items as they did in the past but rather less expensive versions of the company's products.
"Outlet stores are great, but you have to know what you are doing before you go in," she said. "It's made just a little bit cheaper, and a little bit like a knockoff would be made."
How to know if it is outlet merchandise
Wheeler says the merchandise is not always of inferior quality, but it may have fewer buttons, less stitching, and thinner fabric.
And a report in the Krazy Coupon Lady may help shoppers spot the telltale signs.
For instance, she says, Banana Republic factory items have three small diamonds under the name on the tag.
"You'll see that it has 3 diamonds, at GAP it has three squares, at J Crew you will see it has 2 diamonds. And so you just kind of have to look."
With handbags, she says, stores have a different system.
On Kate Spade bags, a square with a hollowed-out spade on the front usually means it's an outlet item.
On Coach bags, Wheeler says an "F" in the serial number means "made-for-outlet."
Can't remember? Wheeler's tip is to do a quick online search.
"You can just Google before you head into the store. Ask it what does the 'insert the store name,' mean and then the factory or the outlet tag look like."
We reached out to all the companies named in the Krazy Coupon Lady report and received responses from two.
A spokesperson from Banana Republic told us its specialty and factory stores are "two separate business units with distinct strategies that ladder up under the Banana Republic brand."
A Coach spokesperson told us, "our outlet stores are merchandised with a mix of products that our outlet customers are looking for."
So remember that outlets can mean big savings, but it is a good idea to inspect the quality of the merchandise before you buy, so you don't waste your money.
Don't Waste Your Money" is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. ("Scripps").
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FULL STATEMENT FROM COACH --
"Our outlet stores are merchandised with a mix of product that our outlet customers are looking for. This includes items that may have been transferred from retail stores, styles that may have previously been offered in retail stores and other channels, and items designed with our outlet customer in mind but which may also sell in channels other than just outlet stores. At our outlet stores we don't differentiate between the source of our products, as each item, and its features, stands on its own."
FULL STATEMENT FROM BANANA REPUBLIC --
"In September 2021, Banana Republic announced a bold reset for the brand with a commitment to elevate all product and bring new customers into the brand while serving existing customers in fresh and creative ways. While we are showing up in a more dynamic way as one brand across Banana Republic Specialty and Banana Republic Factory, these are two separate business units with distinct strategies that ladder up under the Banana Republic brand. Our Factory business designs and develops new high-quality lines each season for our customers."