Sizing Up Outlet Bargains

At outlets, virtually everything is on sale every day. But are you always getting a real deal?
Consumer Reports' Tod Marks wanted to know if outlet stores are worth the trip.

Tod Marks with Consumer Reports says, "We surveyed almost 18,000 subscribers about their outlet shopping experiences. We asked about the key parameters: 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.

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

Consumer Reports also did its own quality comparison, buying $2,000 worth of predominantly men's clothes and accessories at outlet and retail stores.

These boxer shorts were $10 at the Gap retail store. The shorts from the outlet were just $5. But they were better quality. See, the retail shorts have loose threads and stitching.

This Polo Ralph Lauren oxford 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 these Tommy Hilfiger sweat pants. The retail pants have a well-made drawstring, while the outlet's shoestring version looks cheap.

Tod says, "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%!"

Consumer Reports says you should no longer assume you're getting sloppy seconds at all outlet stores. Coach, Sunglass Hut, and other retailers told Consumer Reports they sell new items made specifically for the outlets.

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