1. Know the difference between a "Factory store" and an "Outlet store." There is a big difference here! Most of the stores that you will find at the outlet mall are actually factory stores. This means that the vast majority of items within the store were created specifically for the factory store. These items were never anywhere near the floor of the "real" store. While they are similar in style to the original store, they are often lower in quality. Look for price tags that say "Similar Look $$$." (Examples of Factory stores are - Coach, Banana Republic, Kate Spade, J Crew) I usually buy basic pieces here - t-shirts, shorts, cheap-o jewelry.
An outlet store is a store that carries the real thing. This is where you find reals labels that used to be at the original stores. They either ordered too much product or the item didn't sell or it was returned. TJMaxx and Marshalls are the most common of these types of stores. If you are lucky, your outlet mall might have one or two of these places. I'm talking about Saks off 5th, Century 21, Neiman Marcus Last Call, Nordstrom Rack & Bloomingdales Outlet. You'll find some amazing deals here, they are the gems of all outlet shops.
2. Talk to the Salespeople. With #1 in mind, some of the stuff in those factory stores actually did come from the real store. Wondering what's original and what's factory quality? The staff knows and they are a chatty bunch. A sales clerk recently pointed me to a D&G dress for 75% off! The back corner of the Kate Spade outlet usually has the real thing too.
3. Use coupons! Seriously. So many factory stores and outlet stores will run coupons during certain times of the year. You can find them on their websites, you can get them at the outlet mall kiosks, they are given out in the stores. Stores will often give you a discount if you sign up for e-mails or texts. You can cancel these later if you find the store is a little to ever zealous with daily e-mails (I'm looking at you Century 21).
4. Check every rack! You see all those other people in the store? They are picking up things and putting them back in a totally different, i.e. wrong, location. So what if this section says that all the mediums are here. I'm betting the entire rack is out of order. I found an amazing Marc Jacobs skirt in my size on the XL rack the other day. Be a basset hound and search.
5. Give yourself time. Since you have to search every rack, you won't be just running in and running out. This type of searching takes time and patience.
6. Enlist help! The boyfriend and I always go outlet shopping together. Once he has finished his once over of the men's department (usually a much more organized and smaller section) he joins me looking through the racks. Bonus if your helper has a different sense of style than you do. The BF always finds me things that I would have never tried on in a million years. And they look amazing.
7. Wear a dress. So much easier when trying things on. I hate outlet shopping in the winter. With so many layers, I don't want to try anything on and you must must must try everything on. No exceptions.
Keep these things in mind while you look through the racks. Just remember that most of the stuff at the outlet mall is procured especially for these stores. Ignore those "Original Price" tags, because they probably aren't real. Find stuff that you love, check out the quality of everything and find a great price. You don't want to spend any money on something that is just going to fall apart.
Happy Shopping everyone! Let me know if you have any outlet shopping tips! I'd love to hear them.
Want to check out some of my outlet finds? Click through the images below!