How to Shop Outlet Stores and Malls, a guide for Retirees and other frugal shoppers.

Department Stores vs. their Outlets

OK, My wife and I retired a few years ago.

Up until then we both had management jobs, and we were both into wearing nice clothes. We considered it a part of our image at work.

We lived in cities, and we shopped in large, big-name department stores, men's and women's specialty stores and such. We paid a lot of money for our cloths, but we were comfortable with our wardrobes being a part of our lives.

What we didn't have, were nearby Outlet stores or Malls. Oh, we could drive an hour or more, and find Outlets, but because they were not convenient, and our time was valuable to us, we rarely took advantage of these stores.

Our clothes, as I mentioned, cost a lot of money. And we thought those 10%, 20% discounts the stores sent to us as "special customers" were really great, and we always took advantage of them, smugly thinking that we had done something really Cool.

Retirement and Changing Wardrobe Needs

Eventually, as everyone, I think, hopes to do, we retired. We sold our home, and bought a little place in the Myrtle Beach area, and we started evolving into our new retired lifestyle.

One of the first things we notices was that our old wardrobes were pretty much useless to us.

Oh, I still needed a suit, a couple of Sports Coats, a couple of pair of slacks, a few dress shirts, and a few neckties. My wife needed a few "dressy dresses" a few casual and few seasonal dresses, and of course the obligatory matching shoes, bags and accessories.

But, it quickly became obvious that our new lifestyle had totally different wardrobe requirements.

We needed Casual pants, shirts, blouses, shoes, and the appropriate accessories, along with shorts, both dressy and casual.

But, we found that we did not need the multiple closets full of dress clothes we had moved from our old house to our new home.

After a little thought, and an initial minor shopping spree at the local stores for basics, we actually packaged much of our old dressy clothes into packages large enough to get us the maximum tax deduction over the past four years, and we still have a couple of more packages to use up as donations.

Then one day, a local couple came over to visit us, and the woman asked my wife where she got her outfit, and my wife told her about the department store she had gone to.

Well, the woman proceeded to explain that; first of all we had paid too much, and then she went on to explain to us how to get the most out of the several Outlet Malls in the area.

Outlet Stores and Malls

The first question was why are there so many Outlet stores in or near Resort areas. Well, one big reason is because there are a lot of tourists going to these resort areas, and they all love to shop and get good deals on the products they buy.

The Myrtle Beach area is no exception to this rule, and there are a lot of the big name-brand stores selling their products in these Malls at reduced pricing from what the items cost in their department stores.

When my wife and I walk into a Outlet store, if a rack of clothes or a shelf of appliances do not have a sign hanging over the items offering at least "30% OFF" we don't even slow down to look. We know that the pricing is going to be offered lower later.

And there are too many stores with too much product in that Mall for us to slow down for "regular pricing" even outlet store regular pricing.

I no longer care if my casual 100% cotton, cargo shorts have a Nautica, Polo, Izod or other funky logo on them. I am there for the cheap, functional shorts; plus if they have a nice brand Logo, then that is Cool too.

Some things you need to do, for a deal

THere are a number of tricks that you can use to maximize your savings at Outlet Malls, and here are a few of our favorites;

  1. Shoppers eMail address: You can get additional discounts and coupons from the Mall management themselves, as well as the Brand Stores in an outlet mall. I suggest that you set up a special email address that you use for signing up to their specials. This way you have one email address that you get all of your advertisements sent to, and you do not clutter up your personal email address.
  2. Mall Clubs: Somewhere in that Outlet Mall there is probably a Customer Service office or desk. Go there and ask if they have coupon books and also if they have a membership club. These clubs are usually free, or only $5 or so for a lifetime membership. That coupon book can save you a lot of extra money with their "extra 10% off" coupons for most if not all of their stores. And they will send you seasonal updates on sales, and usually new coupon books.
  3. Brand Store Clubs: Yes, the Brand stores will want you to give them your email address, and request that you fill out an information form to get sales information and coupons for their stores. Fill them out and use that special email shopping address I mentioned.
  4. Seasonal Sales: Outlet stores have seasonal sales, where they are trying to get rid of their end of season merchandise. But, I think that the best sales are based on the tourist shopping seasons. By this I mean that when the tourists are seasonally the most prominent, they have sales, but not the best sales. The best sales the times of the year when there are not as many tourists. At these times, you can see some of the best pricing at outlet stores. They are basically just trying to keep the stores open, and pay the bills and salaries of their employees. The selections might not be as large, but the pricing and sale pricing will be impressive.
  5. Wait: Don't just jump into the car and purchase an item every time you think you need something. Keep a list of things you want, write down sizes, materials, and other desired details with each item, and wait for the right time of the year to take advantage of the best price reductions all in one shopping trip.


What is a Good Sale?

An example of a good sale: I checked my store email yesterday, and a clothing outlet sent me a set of coupons. The coupons included the following; 50% off everything in the store, plus 15% extra off of everything in the store. In addition, as a "special customer", I got a coupon for an additional 20% off of my total purchase at the store.

Well, I went to the store today, and when I walked in, the store had everything on the 50% plus 15% sales, but I had a coupon for the additional 25%, that only their "special customers" got.

Please note though that here is how these percentages work;

If you get a $100 item. First they take the 50% off, leaving a $50 price. Then, they take 15% of this reduced price, leaving a $42.50 price. Then, with my special 25% coupon, the final price is $31.88, or an actual discount of roughly 68%. Not Bad! And worth my attention.

Another set of cautions to the Outlet shopper;

  1. Try it On: Some Outlet stores will sometimes carry seconds from their factory in their stores along with their regular merchandise. Always try it on. Clothes can be cut improperly, or even labeled with the wrong size. Try it on to be sure it fits properly.
  2. Check the Seams: Always check the stitching of clothes, especially at the seams. Some outlets sell improperly sown clothes at greatly reduced pricing just to recoup their basic material costs. Some, not all! But you don't want to get home and find out that you have an un-sewn seam in your shirt or slacks, or blouse, etc.
  3. Check the consistency of the colors and patterns on the material. It is not uncommon to notice a slight color variation between different pieces of material of a sale garment. You have to decide if it is acceptable for the cheap price. It might all blend together after a few washings.
  4. Check that all accessories are there: When buying an appliance in an Outlet store, make them open the box show you that all of the listed parts are in the box. Remember, with appliances especially, they are often customer returns, and often one or more of the accessories, especially the manuals are not returned with the item.
  5. Check that the item has a warranty: Always check that the item, especially appliances, have a warranty, and that it is the original and full manufacturers warranty, and not some reduced warranty just for Outlet store items.

All of these should help you get the most out of your Outlet Store or Mall experience.

Happy Shopping!

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