How to Shop the Outlets
Area outlet malls stretch your shopping dollar.
Does the phrase “on sale” get your blood pumping? Do you like buying designer brands but hate paying retail? Is bargain-hunting fun? If so, you were made for shopping factory outlets.
At first, factory stores offered manufacturers’ overstocked merchandise directly to the public at a discount a couple times a year. Today, that concept has become a popular everyday shopping alternative, with sales of more than $10 billion last year in more than 300 outlet malls nationwide.
Contrary to popular belief, most factory outlet stores are not limited to selling irregular or slightly damaged merchandise. You can find styles at outlets as quickly as six to eight weeks after they debut in department stores. Because manufacturers sell their wares directly to the consumer at outlets, they are able to charge about the same wholesale price per item as they would charge a department store.
Don’t confuse factory outlets that are owned by the manufacturer with off-price stores that may represent a variety of name brands. Although the discounts are similar —some 25 to 60 percent below retail —the main difference is in the selection.
Factory stores rely on their brandname recognition and customer loyalty. Off-price stores offer a range of products from various manufacturers. If you’ve already been bitten by the outlet bug, sign up for the mailing list of some of your favorite stores. Some outlet centers have 20 to 30 top name manufacturers. Also keep your eyes open for solo factory stores and outlets, which have been springing up across the county.
Before you start shopping, take a few minutes to map out your route (while you do, keep your kids' clothing quirks in mind). You’ll be able to stretch your shopping budget and maybe have something left over to indulge yourself with a treat. Happy bargain-hunting!
Claire Yezbak Fadden is a freelance writer, mother of three and an avid bargain-hunter
Area Outlet Malls
Franklin Mills, Phila.: The largest outlet mall around houses 200+ must-stop-and-shops, including American Eagle, Ann Taylor, Justice, an AMC cinema and the accessory haven Twinkle. Print coupons here.
Philadelphia Premium Outlets, Limerick, PA: This designer-heavy outlet’s packed with A-list names from 7th Avenue. Michael Kors, DKNY, Elie Tahari, Polo Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and BCBG put the “premium” in the venue’s name.
Rockvale Outlets, Lancaster, PA: If your kids wear through socks at an alarming rate, stock up at Gold Toe. There are daily sales for military personnel and senior citizens here, so bring grandma along. Sign up to be a preferred shopper here.
Jackson Premium Outlets, Jackson, NJ: Keep the kids happy at Toys R Us before you hit any of the 70 or so shops suited more to mom’s taste. Opening soon: Burberry and Vera Bradley.
Tanger Outlets of Rehoboth, Rehoboth Beach, DE: Spreading the Tanger name into Delaware (there are branches in Atlantic City, NJ and Lancaster and Hershey, PA), this outlet’s got 40+ stores from Gymboree to Coach.
Tanger Outlets of Atlantic City: More Tanger goodness in AC. If "life is good" is your motto, shop the Life Is Good outpost here for monogrammed tees, socks, hats and more.
Jersey Shore Premium Outlets, Tinton Falls, NJ: The back-to-school sale runs August 1-5. Save money on the kids, then drop in to high-end stores such as David Yurman and Gucci.