Outlet Stores: Are They Really Bargains?

Outlet Stores: Are They Really Bargains?

Some of the trendiest clothing stores in America also have hugely popular outlet stores where many shoppers assume that they're scooping up big bargains on name brand clothes.  

But attention outlet shoppers!  You may not be getting the bargain you think.

We took hidden cameras and went on a shopping spree with style and trend expert, Brittney Levine. Levine was not impressed with a lot of the clothes she found in some of the outlet stores.

“This is not real leather,” said Levine, examining one garment.

We compared the quality of the clothes at outlet stores versus the retail stores. What we discovered may surprise you.

Looking at a pair of Banana Republic Factory Store chinos Levine said, “On close look you can see that the pockets are just unraveling, fraying.  You have pieces of string coming off the garment.”

Levine and Inside Edition’s Lisa Guerrero asked the sales people at the outlet stores a lot of questions like, where do the clothes come from and what's the difference in quality from the retail stores?

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At the Banana Republic Factory Store outlet, here's what the clerk told us.

Guerrero asked, “Are these the same khakis we'd find in the Banana Republic stores?”

“No, they're not exactly the same,” replied the salesperson.

“The quality is the same?” asked Guerrero.

“Yes, we put the same amount of effort into it. It's just the materials,” said the salesperson.

But are they really the same quality?  Levine says their most popular chinos from the retail stores are top notch. “These are the Aiden chinos that people are looking to buy,” said Levine.

But she says the chinos sold at the factory store outlet don't even come close. “Each pair really had fraying fabric, there were strings that were coming out along the belt line.”  

“Strings coming out the butt, which is not attractive. Not attractive at all,” noticed Guerrero.

The saleswoman at the J. Crew retail store wasn't very complimentary about the clothes at their factory outlet.  “Quality is one thing,” said the saleswoman.  Lisa Guerrero asked, “The quality is better in the retail stores?  “Definitely!” said the saleswoman.

And our expert agreed!  She compared a woman's blazer purchased at a J.Crew retail store to this similar blazer, purchased at the factory outlet.  

Levine said, “So, immediately, it's the quality. You can see that (the blazer purchased at he outlet) is not made very well at all. The lining is mismatched.  You can see by each button -  they're only holding on by a thread, literally. The retail version we got at J. Crew is fantastic.”

Garment after garment, our shopping expert gave high marks to the retail clothes, and thumbs down to many of the outlet versions.

Banana Republic and J. Crew told us the clothing sold at their outlets is designed exclusively for those stores, and does not come from their high-end retail stores. But both companies say they offer quality merchandise at great prices.