Outlet malls call to mind racks filled with stylish last-season merchandise or items with minor flaws at great discounted prices. Right? Well, not necessarily. According to Consumer Reports, more and more stores are creating or buying merchandise especially for their outlet locations. This is becoming such a common trend, that according to Forbes, 82% of products at outlet stores are specifically made to be sold at those locations.

Beware of faux price tags

Oftentimes these goods aren’t the same high-quality products you would expect from the company. Although many brands do not exactly hide the fact that merchandise is made specifically for outlet stores, some are not as open. Retailers go as far as to create faux price tags, to create the illusion that merchandise was originally sold in their normal stores, making the consumer feel like they're scoring a great piece. Also, because the quality is inferior in comparison to the retailer's regular merchandise, you aren’t exactly saving when you pay for the lesser items. Rather, you’re paying the intended retail price in accordance to the cost.

Mall vs. outlet clothing quality

Major differences can be found from store to store. For example, Gap Outlet stores don’t sell the same cute styles you saw at their location in the mall. Rather, the merchandise lining the shelves of their outlet location is filled with items that were made at a lesser cost to be sold there. While the styles may be similar, there will be differences such as shortcuts in construction, often resulting in a poor fit, or will be lacking details like zippers and buttons. Coach Outlets on the other hand, tend to have a fairly even mix of specially made outlet pieces and genuine last season or flawed Coach goods. In contrast, Lands’ End Outlets sell unsold merchandise from their traditional locations. But how is one to know the difference?

Knowing the difference

When shopping at outlet stores, make sure to carefully inspect each piece. Look for flaws in stitching and closures. Also, read the labels! Where the item was manufactured can be a big tip-off, as well as fabric content. Make sure to try items on. Ill-fitting merchandise can indicate that shortcuts were taken during assembly. Disregard the sales tag with the 'original price' to avoid getting convinced by a supposed deal. And when all else fails, ask. Many sales associates will be upfront and fill you in on the origins of the merchandise.

Even though you may not be getting the same quality at outlet stores, it’s not to say you can't find some hidden gems. Items found at these retailers can often become great pieces in your closet. Just make sure you take extra care when shopping!

Outlet vs. Retail: Knowing the Difference Can Save You Money!