Tips to consider before conquering an outlet mall

BBB Consumer Alerts
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With summer coming to an end and school beginning, families turn to outlet shops to find the best deals on back-to-school items. According to The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), 89% of back-to-school shoppers will make their purchases in-person. Although internet shopping is reshaping the retail landscape, it has not deterred shoppers from hitting storefronts looking for the latest deals, offerings, and experiences.  With outlet malls generating more than $45 billion in revenue in 2015, it’s clear that the excitement bargain hunting gives consumers is still alive and well.

But before you pack up the car for a marathon shopping excursion, consider these tips to help you get the most for your money:

  • Check out the retail prices of the items you’re wanting to purchase before you arrive. Shopping at an outlet mall doesn’t always guarantee you the best price.
  • Recognize that some items might have a lower price for a reason. For example, the stripes on a shirt might not match up at the seams, a jacket might not be lined correctly or fully, or a sweater could have plastic buttons instead of the advertised mother of pearl. Also, be sure to look at footwear and accessories. Shoes might be made with synthetic materials and zippers on backpacks and purse may not slide smoothly or get caught.
  • Ask about return policies. Some outlet stores do not have a time limit on returns if the tags are still attached and you have the receipt. Other stores have a 30 to 90-day return policy, while others abide by an “all sales final” policy where no returns are allowed.
  • 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. In fact, 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.

Source: BBB Northern Alabama and International Council of Shopping Centers

For more information, visit Betting on Outlets: 2015 State of the Outlet IndustryPhysical Retail Remains Vital for Back-to-School Spending and Shopping Tips

If you would like to report a scam, call your BBB at 256-533-1640 or go to the BBB Scam Tracker. To find trustworthy businesses, visit

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