What is Outlet Shopping?

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  • Written By: G. Melanson
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 December 2019
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Outlet shopping refers to the process of shopping at retail outlets, which are stores that sell brand name merchandise at discounted prices. An outlet store may be situated by itself, but is most often located amongst other outlets as part of an outlet mall, to facilitate shopping. Outlets are often located at a distance from the retailer’s main wholesale accounts and just outside of major cities, in order to keep overhead prices and retailer competition at a minimum. Items most commonly found on an outlet shopping excursion include clothing, fashion accessories, electronics, sporting goods, toys, and cosmetics.

Outlet shopping first developed in the United States, with retail stores attached to the warehouse or factory which manufactured the outlet goods. Border states such as Maine and Minnesota became a popular location for outlets, attracting Canadian tourists to cross-border outlet shopping. Today, outlet malls can be found all across the world, and are referred to as “Designer Outlets” in many parts of Europe.


The items that are shipped to outlets from their manufacturers are often made up of a combination of surplus inventory which does not sell quickly enough at major retail locations, and items that feature slight damages or imperfections. For this reason, clothing found while outlet shopping may come in erratic sizes or one size only, compared to a retail location which often stocks one item in a variety of sizes. Items at an outlet may also be out-of-season compared to merchandise of the same brand name found in a regular retail mall. While outlets have long been associated with discount savings and bargain hunting, many major retail malls have begun to lower their prices comparably to compete.

Customers can often maximize their outlet savings by doing some research in advance of outlet shopping. Visiting the outlet mall’s customer service station to receive a coupon book, checking out the outlet’s website, and signing up for the outlet’s mailing list are all ways to increase the chances of finding a bargain. Outlets also typically feature tax-free weekend specials during the summer months, such as the fourth of July weekend. One-stop-shop outlet shopping websites offer links to savings information for outlet malls all across the US.


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