Shop Smart at Factory Outlet Malls With Tips From The Better Business Bureau

May 13, 2014

Factory outlets are popular places to find discounts on everything, from clothing to electronics to home décor. Items may be discounted because of a slight imperfection, such as uneven stitching or it may be last season’s pattern. Many consumers don’t know that some products are made exclusively for outlet malls. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is telling consumers to do their research before buying from factory outlets, in order to save money on deals and merchandise the store has to offer.

“Especially in today’s economy, consumers are always looking for the lowest price,” says Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “However, not all outlet stores are created equal. Always research potential savings and make sure they are genuine.”

Here are some tips to be aware of before shopping at a factory outlet store:

Check if the discount is genuine. If the pre-discount price is the Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP), the “discount” may not mean much.  The MSRP is only a price cap set by manufacturer and is usually undercut by retailers. MSRP for an item might be $150, but that doesn’t mean it has ever been sold for that anywhere else.

Ask if merchandise was produced for the outlet. If so, that may mean lower prices for merchandise with a brand name label.  Those savings may not be as attractive if the item is not as durable as its retail counterpart.

Know where the savings are. You may find great prices on back-to-school merchandise and shoes, but maybe not on electronics or other items.  Visit the outlet’s web page to look for specials several days before you intend to head out.

Research the prices. Go online and check the retail price of, for example, a pair of brand name exercise shorts,  and then see what the outlet stores are selling it for.  Then decide whether the trip to an outlying outlet mall is worth the gas and time. 

Shop off hours. The best merchandise can move quickly.  Consider going off hours to get first choice.  Also, shop at the end of seasons, such as March and August when leftover inventory is brought in from retail stores.

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The BBB is a non-profit, non-governmental organization.  It is supported by businesses to protect consumers against scams and other unethical business practices.  The group accomplishes this by educating both consumers and businesses, and by highlighting trustworthy businesses. By developing reports and ratings on businesses and charitable organizations, the BBB encourages people to use these as resources and referrals to utilize the free services before making a purchase or donation. The BBB helps resolve buyer/seller complaints through its alternative dispute resolution process. In 2013, the BBB provided more than 22,600,000 instances of service.  Over 80 percent of consumer complaints to the BBB were resolved. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois is a member of the international BBB system that services the United States, Canada and Mexico.