Comment and analysis on all things Charlotte

On outlet stores

The Sacramento Bee (via the Raleigh News & Observer here) offers up a fascinating look at the outlet store business model. And to put it bluntly, outlet stores these days may be something different than what you think they are:

When you buy something at an outlet mall, do you know what you’re getting?

If you think it’s a top-quality, brand-name product at a deep discount, think again.

Ten years ago, that may have been true. But most brands now sell lesser-quality merchandise made just for their outlets.


Upscale fashion icons, including Coach and Juicy Couture, maintain a separate product line for their outlet stores, representatives for the brands said. Clothing retailer Gap Inc., which owns Banana Republic, also manufactures products exclusively for its outlets or “factory stores.”

“There’s no cross-pollination. Retail stuff never ends up here,” said Daryl Higgins, manager of the Gap Outlet store in Folsom, Calif.

One Response to “On outlet stores”

  • Dec

    >> Retail stuff never ends up here

    Some does. Very little, but you can usually identify it by looking at the price tag. If it’s a mainline store price tag with the original price crossed out and a new price hand-written in ink, it probably came from the mainline store. Anything with a pre-printed price tag (with “Compare at $149.00″ crossed out and “Now just $79.00 showing) was definitely manufactured as a straight-to-outlet item.

    Neiman Marcus Last Call seems to have the best ratio of quality-to-crap of the big box outlets. Today I’m wearing first-quality Zanella pants that I got at NMLC, and I also have Brioni pants, a Zegna sweater, and some Balenciaga shades from there. I’ve seen suits and sportswear by Tom Ford, Isaia, Brunello Cucinelli, Zegna, Ralph Lauren Black Label and Kiton, all mainline merch but alas not in my size.

    Nordstrom Rack and Saks Off Fifth are mostly straight-to-outlet junk, although Rack has first-quality Allen Edmonds shoes and the occasional fully-canvassed Hickey Freeman piece, while my wife found a great Tory Burch dress at Off 5th.

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