Outlet store shopping tips to save cash

August 14, 2013 12:32:55 PM PDT
We're hitting the stores for some back to school shopping! We went to search the area's outlet malls and the biggest one in Texas to see if it's worth the drive.

So if you haven't been to the outlet malls in the last few years, it's a totally different experience. What was once a place for factory seconds or irregular items now is a place to find name brands, and in recent years, ultra high-end designers. But before you go shopping, there are a few things you need to know.

In the greater Houston area, you have the newly opened Tanger Outlets in Texas City, Katy Mills Shopping Center, the Houston Premium Outlets in Cypress and The Outlets at Conroe. And about 165 miles away in San Marcos, you have the biggest outlet mall in the United States, The San Marco Outlets.

Houstonian Isa Johnson and her family drove all the way there to finding the savings. Houstonian Mary McDonald also made the trip.

"Normally the outlets in San Marcos I have found have better savings," McDonald said.

But these shoppers knows how to navigate the outlets. If you don't, no problem; we brought along image and wardrobe consultant Sarah Shah to help.

"There are two kinds of outlets, no matter what they are called," Shah said.

First, each individual outlet store is different.

"Outlet stores can be called all kinds of different things; they can be called outlets, or warehouse stores or company stores," Shah said.

But no matter what they are called, there are two different kinds of outlets. The first kind is a store that has original merchandise from their regular retail store.

"So it's merchandise from their sales rack, or their surplus, or maybe from past seasons," Shah said.

For example, we found a gold backpack from Juicy Couture that was in the retail store.

The second kind of store is one that manufacturers merchandise specifically for the outlet store.

"There are clues, so you can either look at the tags," Shah said. "In other stores, the actual tag looks a little bit different."

Like clothes at The Gap outlet are specifically made for the outlet store only. You can tell by the three dots on the tag. But stores like Juicy Couture have a combination of both, original retail merchandise and made for outlets.

Here is biggie: Some stores are not outlets even though they are located in an outlet mall.

Another tip: Know what the item is worth. How can you know if the outlet price is a good price if you don't know the regular retail price of an item?

So a word of caution when you are shopping at the outlet malls: Some deals are hit and miss.

"Sometimes at the regular retail store, they have better sales than the outlet," shopper Jennifer Mathis said.

And finally, fewer stores may mean better quality. UGG has one outlet store in all of the U.S., and we spotted plenty of money saving options inside.

Some other things to consider while shopping at the outlets: Pack some snacks, dress for the weather and when you see a bathroom, make a stop.

Find Patricia on Facebook at ABC13PatriciaLopez or on Twitter at @patricialopez13


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