• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Outlet shopping: Are you really getting a deal?

October 7, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
One industry that's thriving in this economic downturn is outlet stores. They racked up $30 billion in sales last year. But do outlets really give you a big bang for the buck?

At outlets, virtually everything is on sale every day. But are you always getting a real deal? Consumer Reports surveyed nearly 18,000 subscribers about their outlet shopping experiences to see if the stores are worth the trip. They were questioned about value, quality, service and selection.

Sixty percent of shoppers said outlets offered exceptional value. Readers were more likely to find great deals at stores like Coach, Haggar, Izod, and Van Heusen. And there's more to like about outlet shopping.

"About three-quarters of those surveyed characterized the quality of the merchandise they bought as excellent or very good. Now those are impressive statistics," said Consumer Reports' Tod Marks.

Consumer Reports also did its own quality comparison, buying $2,000 worth of predominantly men's clothes and accessories at outlet and retail stores. Boxer shorts were $10 at the Gap retail store, while similar shorts from the outlet were just $5 and they were better quality. The retail shorts had loose threads and stitching.

A Ralph Lauren Oxford polo shirt cost $76 from a retail store. The outlet version was $40, but this time the quality was comparable.

However, the retail versions were often a bit better, like a pair of Tommy Hilfiger sweat pants. The retail pants have a well-made drawstring, while the outlet's shoestring version looks cheap.

"The bottom line is that outlet shopping is worth the trip. The merchandise quality, in most instances, is fine. And in our shopping trip, we saved as much as 61 percent," said Marks.

Outlet stores really want to sell the merchandise, so if you ask the store manager which items offer the best savings, they will honestly tell you. And, they will also let you know which items were made just for the outlet store and which ones came from the retail store.

Load Comments