If you’ve been on a road trip this summer, odds are your travels took you past an outlet mall or two. These shopping centers, which promise big names—think Brooks Brothers, Coach, Kate Spade and J. Crew —and low prices, have been experiencing significant growth in recent years. Since 2006, 40 new centers have sprung up, bringing the total number of outlet malls across the United States to 193.
When it comes to shopping at outlet malls, the regular rules for retail go out the window. This week, we enlisted the help of Cheapism.com’s Gina Briles, a seasoned outlet shopper with an eye for deals, who shared with us her tips for getting the best bargains:
Know your brand: Outlet malls feature a mix of merchandise—overstocks, items made specifically for the outlet or items similar to those found at a retail stores, just made less expensively. According to Briles, knowing your brand can help you to spot better bargains. “I was on vacation in Florida when I visited the Kate Spade outlet,” says Briles. “I was able to spot this gorgeous statement necklace that I saw in the regular retail store for a fraction of the cost. Because I knew the brand, I recognized it as a really good deal.”
Get to know the staff: “Make friends with the staff—ask them where their merchandise comes from and see if they will call you when they get new shipments in,” suggests Briles.
Don’t be swayed by the “sale”: “Outlet stores will tag an item for the manufacturer’s suggested retails price—but, it’s important to remember, it probably hasn’t ever been on a retail shelf, so it hasn’t actually sold for that,” says Briles. She notes that consumers need to go in realizing things are always going to appear to be on sale at outlet stores and shoppers shouldn’t be pressured to purchase solely for that reason.
Get on mailing lists: Many retailers have their own mailing lists specifically for their outlet stores. Briles suggests getting on the lists of your favorites and signing up for VIP programs offered by outlet centers.
Always, always ask about the return policy: Outlet stores typically have more strict return policies than their counterparts. Briles suggests shoppers always inquire about whether you’re able to return items and if they allow it, what the time frame for doing so is.
Planning to shop at an outlet mall soon? Arm yourself with Gina’s tips, and check out my round up of some of this week’s best outlet offers below:
Columbia Sportswear Outlet: Now through August 21, when you spend $150 at select Columbia outlet stores, you’ll get a $30 promo card to use in September.
New York & Company Outlet: All pants, jeans and skirts at select New York & Company outlet stores are buy-one-get-one free through August 17.
J. Crew Factory: Through August 10, all J. Crew Factory “School Shop” items are 30% off. Offer applies both in-store and online.
Tommy Hilfiger Company Store: Use the code SAVENBUY at Tommy Hilfiger outlet stores to save 35% off three items and 25% off two items.
Harry & David Outlet: Take $10 off your purchase of $35 or more at Harry & David outlet stores when you shop through August 31.
Yankee Candle Outlet Stores: Now through August 14 at Yankee Candle Outlet Stores, all large jar candles are 4 for $44 (regularly $27.99 each).
As always, here are RetailMeNot’s most popular deals for the week:
Amazon: Save 20% off your purchase of $100 in apparel, shoes and accessories when you use this exclusive RetailMeNot promo code.
Victoria’s Secret: Take up to $150 off online orders when you use this promo code and shop before August 13.
Delia’s: Save up to 30% on orders, plus get free shipping on purchases over $75 when you shop by August 21.
Puma: Shop through the end of August and save 10% on your order—plus get free shipping—when you use this code.
Sephora: Get a free iPhone or iPad case when you spend $25 and use this promo code. Available while supplies last.