Price Differences on Luxury Goods Can Reach 85%
New York, NY (December 01, 2011) - Frugal holiday shoppers can shrink their gift-giving budgets by a whopping 29% and save up to 85% on individual items by taking their business to outlet stores instead of the local retail mall, according to budget products review site Cheapism. But the site's comparison of outlet shopping vs. retail also found that prices can be similar and quality can vary, so a trip to the outlet mall may not always be worth it.
At the outlets, Cheapism's haul of 22 desirable gifts and other holiday items added up to $1,240.15, including sales and store coupons often handed out as shoppers walk in (because those discounts account for much of the savings of outlet shopping) but excluding taxes. The total was 29.4% less than shoppers would spend at retail stores, where comparable items cost $1,756.62, again including discounts. A broader comparison of outlet prices vs. retail prices on 71 items revealed an almost identical percentage savings of 29.5% at the outlet mall.
In addition, outlet savings on individual products were often far higher than on the total shopping cart. Outlet shopping saved 40% on a queen-sized Italian satin-stitch sheet set ($148.99 vs. $249); 44% on a Coach men's Heritage Stripe wallet ($82.88 vs. $148); and 85% on a Calphalon open-stock saute pan ($24 vs. $160).
- Outlet merchandise quality varies from brand to brand. Cheapism found that outlet quality depends partly on how the merchandise is sourced. Some outlet stores carry primarily made-for-outlet items (Gap, Banana Republic), while others offer current-season items (Carter's, Samsonite) or a mix of made-for-outlet, full-price retail, overstock, second quality and/or discontinued lines (Calphalon, Kate Spade, Coach, L'Occitane). Gymboree offers slightly altered reproductions of retail merchandise from previous seasons, such as a less embellished $29.99 outlet version of a holiday dress that sold for $56.95 at retail last year.
- Second quality may be first-rate. A cast-iron 5.5-quart round Dutch oven selling for $199 at the Le Creuset outlet store was virtually indistinguishable from the $239.99 retail version, although it was relegated to the off-price location because of minor cosmetic flaws.
- Some outlets have a greater selection than their retail counterparts. Overall, retail malls offer more colors and styles, as well as deeper stock on non-sale merchandise, but exceptions include Carter's (which carries bigger sizes and separates) and Le Creuset (which offers an impressive array of colors).
- Outlet "markdowns" sometimes aren't. Bath towels selling for $18.99 at a Restoration Hardware outlet would cost $24 at retail, according to the tag, but Cheapism discovered that the full-price stores didn't carry the same towel. Similarly, a purple Coach SoHo leather-flap bag selling at an outlet price of $169 had a listed retail price of $348 but was manufactured for the outlet.
- Outlet and retail prices sometimes differ by only a few dollars or not at all. A Kate Spade iPhone 4 hard case cost $40 at both the off-price and full-price locations, while Banana Republic women's trouser socks were cents apart at $7.99 and $8.50.
- Retail stores occasionally offer a better bargain. While outlet pricing was better for nearly every item on Cheapism's shopping list, there were a few exceptions. A three-piece Carter's layette set priced at $20 was a $10.99 bargain at Dillard's. Similarly, a 21-inch Samsonite soft-side carry-on cost $199.95 at a Samsonite outlet store, but the same size suitcase in another soft-side collection cost only $149.99 on sale at Macy's.
"Occasionally a retail store will have a better deal, but overall outlet shopping is going to take a smaller bite out of your wallet," said Max Levitte, co-founder and CEO of Cheapism. "Just be sure you know what you're buying and you're familiar with how much things cost at retail if you want to get the best deals."
Called "a Consumer Reports for the cheap" by The New York Times, Cheapism.com is a review site that serves consumers on a budget who want the best value for their money. Cheapism's carefully researched buying guides focus exclusively on low-price products. For more information, visit http://www.cheapism.com.
S&S Public Relations