Last week, I checked out the new Saks Fifth Avenue Off Fifth outlet store at Woodbury Commons, which is an hour drive outside of New York City. Woodbury Commons is an insane outlet destination shopping spot, and people bring friggin’ wheeled suitcases to tow their booty around. There are more than 100 shops there, but not everything is the deal you might think it is — it takes some maneuvering and smart shopping to get a really good deal. I found a Yigal Azrouel coat, which was originally retail priced at $1875 (ridiculous, I know), on sale for $370. If I knew math, I’d say that was a 85 percent discount or something. You guys probably hate it, but I think it’s a grown up and sexy interpretation of my Navajo craziness.
Anyways, I learned a thing or two about outlet shopping from the folks over at Saks Fifth Avenue Off Fifth and my day trotting around all 1,000 acres of Woodbury Commons.1. Not all outlets just sell stuff that doesn’t sell at regular stores. We often think that outlets simply carry products that didn’t sell at the regular stores, but that’s not necessarily the case. At stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and J. Crew, merchandise is specifically made for the outlets. And at a place like Saks, we’re not just talking about in-house lines — designers like Rag & Bone, French Connection, and Alexander Wang will make pieces that you won’t be able to find anywhere but at the outlets. Around 15 percent of stuff there are garments and goods from regular Saks, but the rest is specially brought in for the outlet.
2. Outlets won’t have sales like regular retail stores. The upside: Usually the price on the tag is going to be pretty good to begin with. The downside: You’re never going to find an incredible, undeniable, zillion percent off deal.
3. Know what you’re looking for. Outlet shopping can seem like a treasure trove of deals. However! Do you really need 10 Gap henleys in a rainbow of colors? Probably not.
4. Don’t believe the hype … or the price tag. Just because an outlet price tag says a sundress costs $250 in the retail store doesn’t mean it actually does. Or maybe it did … last year, when the style was in season. Remember to judge a deal based on your own criteria — is this really worth it? Would you pay this much for it in a regular store?
5. Outlet doesn’t necessarily mean on sale. I visited an American Apparel outlet store where 90 percent of the items in the store were regularly priced. The things that were outlet-priced? A few tank tops and some socks. Not worth it.
6. Shop the perimeter, then head toward the interior of the store. Outlets tend to pack their less expensive and last season merchandise on the perimeter of the store, because managers know that shoppers tend to head immediately toward the middle and interior parts of the store.
7. Dress for comfort and give yourself time. Bring snacks! And water! This might take a while.