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Outlet shopping

All Areas > Health & Beauty > Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Author: Val Starr, Posted: Wednesday, 24th August 2022, 09:00

Most people are being very careful how they spend their hard-earned cash at the moment, with prices soaring and the cost of living rising.

For those of us who enjoy spending our money on fashion, we often head to outlet stores to pick up a bargain. Even if it means a drive and parking fees, we feel that it is worth the effort to get our favourite high-end or designer brand at a big discount. But is it?

TK Maxx
Many people, including myself, were surprised that all is not what it seems, so it’s useful to be aware of exactly what you are buying. A favourite for many fashion followers is TK Maxx, which features on most high streets and offers an enormous range of items, often at very tempting prices.

In a recent programme it was discovered that 60% of items in TK Maxx were legitimate ‘close out stock’ – meaning they got a deal on existing unsold stock from another brand – and the remaining 40% is made up of made-to-order contracts.

The key to look out for at TK Maxx is numbers on the right hand corner of the price tags – specifically, numbers 1, 2 and 7. These numbers are a sort of ‘secret code’ to the product.

Number 1 represents a product that has been produced by a brand specifically for TK Maxx, so it may not be quite the same as they would manufacture for their own brand stores. Calvin Klein and DKNY are a couple of examples. This does not mean the product is in any way inferior, but in my opinion it was not quite what I had thought.

Items labelled with a number 2 are ‘close out’ stock, meaning they are unsold stock from a designer that would have been sold at a much higher price elsewhere. Often designers manufacture too much stock and are left with a surplus, which could result in us getting a great bargain.

Number 7 items are known as ‘packaway’, which means they are original items that were packed for the previous year. Personally it does not bother me if an item is from last season – if I like it and it suits me, I’ll buy it.

The takeaway here is that the best bargains to look for are items with codes 2 or 7.

Outlet shops
Here we find another surprise, especially in the high-end designer boutiques. It is often assumed that goods come from the brand’s main stores, but this is not always the case. Some items might have ‘OE’ on their label, which translates to Outlet Exclusive.

For example, Ugg, a brand well-known for its boots, produce an Essentials range for their outlets. The boots have the same upper style but a different sole with a larger tread than the Classics.

Coach is a US high-end store known for their lovely clothing, handbags and accessories. There is a sign on the counter in their Bicester store stating that the product assortment in all Coach outlet stores is a mix of past seasons’ products from their branded stores, and new season products made specifically for their outlet stores. Not many of us read these types of notes but at least they’ve put it out there!

Ralph Lauren is another example of a high-end brand that sells ranges in their outlets that you might not find in their flagship Bond Street store.
This information does not in any way mean there are not great deals to be found, but it perhaps might make us more aware as consumers of what exactly we are buying. I for one will still head to the outlets when I can and rejoice when I find a bargain, as I would not want them to go the way of the high street! Happy shopping.

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