Where to Shop: Outlet or Retail Store? - women fashion, style, retail shop, outlet, men fashion, fashion

The age-old question of whether it is better to shop at a brand’s outlet store or retail store is a difficult one to answer. There are a lot of factors that might make an individual sway one way or the other. Some of those are well known and some may surprise you. Here is a breakdown of the pros and cons of outlet stores and retail stores and when the best time is to shop at each.

Outlet Store Pro: Slashed prices

The first and most obvious reason why people forego the retail stores is the drastically reduced prices available at outlet stores. Outlet stores offer clothing and accessories from high-end brands such as J. Crew, Coach, and Gucci at significantly lower costs than their corresponding retail stores will offer. Retail stores tend to sell strictly full priced items except for the occasional sale or randomly dispersed coupons.

In addition to already offering clothing at lower prices, outlet stores also have sales much more frequently, which can further improve the deals you can get on various brands. The tail end of a season is the best time to hit the outlet malls, because they need to clear out that season’s clothing for a whole new season’s inventory and often offer their top deals.  

Retail Store Pro: Most updated styles

One reason why outlets are able to offer name-brand items at lower prices is because the styles in their inventories are from previous seasons and years. This is why if having the most up-to-date style is important to you, then paying full price is worth it and retail locations are your best bet.

Does it ever feel like you cannot keep up with the season of the clothing that is actually in retail stores? That is because they switch over their clothing to the next season way before that season actually arrives. If having the latest styles is something that you value, then the best time to shop at retail stores is a couple months prior to the official season change.

In order to catch the season’s styles right when they hit the shelves, here’s the timing of fashion seasons for retailers:

  • Spring/Summer: January to June
  • Fall/Winter: July to December
  • Pre-Fall: starts slightly ahead of Fall/Winter

If you’re interested in catching a sale on retail store items, then holidays and season changes are the best time to try and get newer styles at a discount.

Outlet Store Con: Items may be of lower quality

Not only do outlet stores offer last year’s products, they sometimes use completely different, lower quality materials to make similar clothing sold in their retail stores. Even though the quality of the garments at outlets may not be as high as those at traditional retailers, the products at outlet stores are still well made.  If this is something that bothers you however, then you may be happier with paying more for the products at retail stores.

Retail Store Con: The higher quality is not always obvious

Often in comparisons between clothing from a brand’s outlet and retail store, even if different quality materials are used for each, an un-trained person cannot tell the difference between the two. This is one reason why shopping at outlet stores can be a better payoff, because even though you know the difference in quality and price, many people would have no idea.

Individuals may even mistake the outlet store item as the more expensive version in a side-by-side comparison. Paying the extra money at a retail store may serve the purpose of the owner knowing that they are wearing a higher quality item, but other people around them may not always see it that way.

Striking a balance between outlet and retail shopping is another route, where you could splurge on items that you think are worth it at retail stores and pad your wardrobe with less expensive brand-name clothing from outlet stores. Retail harmony achieved.