It’s time for back-to-school shopping, and to save money you may thinking about shopping at an outlet mall. But, do outlet stores offer real bargains?
Outlets can offer a good deal, but to get real savings, you have to know what they’re selling – and what you’re buying, said Colleen Tressler, consumer education specialist for the Federal Trade Commission.
Here are tips from the FTC to help you get the most for your money:
- Check out the retail prices of items you want to buy so you’ll know if you’re really getting a bargain. If you don’t have time, apps are available that can compare prices for you.
- Recognize that some items may have a low price for a reason. For example, a blazer might not be fully lined, a sweater might have plastic buttons instead of mother-of-pearl, or the stripes on a shirt may not match up at the seams. Take a close look at footwear and accessories, too. Shoes might be made with synthetic materials rather than leather, and zippers on purses and backpacks might not have a smooth glide. If top-quality is important, you may want to keep shopping. But if you’re going for this year’s look on a budget, outlet bargains may be an option.
- While overstock and irregular goods are still part of the mix, many outlet stores sell products made exclusively for them, rather than for their regular retail stores. Some outlet stores label these items as outlet exclusives. If you’re not sure whether the store sells “made-for-outlet” merchandise or how to tell the difference between outlet-only and regular retail merchandise, ask the sales staff.
- Ask about return policies. Some outlet stores let you return unused merchandise any time as long as the price tag hasn’t been removed and you have the receipt. Other stores have 30- to 90-day return policies, and some don’t allow any returns.
- Many regular retail stores won’t take returns from their outlet stores. Ask the sales staff about, too.