From off-season clothes and accessories to less-than-perfect items, and refurbished... millions drive long distances every year to bargain-hunt at outlet malls.
But not everything here is a bargain. For example, did you know some retailers produce lower-quality items made exclusively to sell in outlet stores?
Consumer reports conducted a study of 6000 outlet mall shoppers: 77% of them said they couldn't tell the difference between the products at the outlet mall and those at the full price store. But when Consumer Reports inspected some of the outlet mall merchandise, they found some were made of lower quality materials than the stuff sold at retail.
Now, this isn't true of all chains, and certainly not true of every item in the store, but it can happen. So what you really need are some so you know when you're bagging a bargain at an outlet store.
First, ask about quality. Outlet mall staff might tell you if the item you're eyeing is made specifically for outlet malls. Look at the tags. Some say "Factory line".
Pay attention to detail. Check for differences in materials like cotton and wool. Know what you're looking for.
And make sure you know what the actual retail prices: don't rely on what they say the suggested retail is.
And remember to hit the computer before you hit the mall.
There are studies that suggest you can save up to 35 percent at places like outlet malls, and that's why they're so crowded. But that's not the only place that you can find bargains, so look locally too. Want more tips on outlet shopping? Just go to MoneyTalksNews.com and do a search for "shopping."