BBB tips: Shop Smart at the Factory Outlets

May 23, 2014

Buffalo, NY--Factory outlets all over Upstate New York are popular places to find discounts on everything from clothing and shoes, to electronics and home décor. Items may be discounted because of a slight imperfection, such as uneven stitching or it may be last season’s styles or patterns. What most consumers don't know is that some products are made exclusively for outlet malls. These products may look very similar to their brand name counterparts, but may actually be lower quality. Better Business Bureau serving Upstate New York is urging consumers to do their research before buying from factory outlets, in order to save money on deals and merchandise the store has to offer.

“Consumers are always looking to stretch their dollars, especially during holiday weekend sales,” said Warren Clark, President of BBB serving Upstate New York. “BBB reminds consumers to beware and shop more carefully at all outlet stores to make sure the products being sold are genuine.”

BBB offers the following tips for consumers before heading out to shop 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 during “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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