Shopping the outlets and discount chains - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Shopping the outlet stores

We all like saving money, but do you know best practices for doing so when it comes to outlet stores?

Furniture, fixtures and appliances:  shop the outlets.

Clothing and shoes:  shop the discount chains.

I just gave you fashion expert Linda Arroz's first rule of finding real deals at discount chains or outlet stores/malls.

Arroz said at the outlets, focus only on non-clothing items. Outlets that sell furniture, fixtures and appliances often get them directly from their manufacturers with no loss in quality -- or they sell discontinued or slightly damaged items that retain their value at a 20 to 50 percent savings.

Or they have overstocked items in perfect condition they just can't seem to move. So they discount those as much as 75 percent.

"It's a rug that was $279. I got it for $75," said Roxanne Winebrenner, after loading an overstock rug into her car outside the Pottery Barn Outlet.

For clothes, Arroz said you should avoid the outlet stores/malls. She said clothing companies purposely manufacture cheaper quality clothes to go straight to their outlet stores to make up for a lack of inventory.

"A straight-to-outlet sweater might lack double-stitching," said Arroz to Bottom Line/Personal magazine, "or be made from a blend of fibers rather than 100 percent cashmere."

So instead, Arroz recommended shopping clothes at discount chains like Stein Mart -- and obey her second rule:  the bigger the name brand, the bigger the savings.

"The manufacturer who has the brand name would want to protect their reputation," said Jane Curtis, a manager at Stein Mart's. "They're going to make sure we have the same quality (as the department stores)."

Curtis showed us an Adrienne Vittadini dress for sale in her showroom, straight from the manufacturer. "If you bought this dress any place else, it would be $138," she said. "At Stein Mart, it's $39.99."

Discount chains like Stein Mart are good places for Arroz's third rule:  discount off the discounts.

They have discount racks, too -- just like the department stores -- but you get clearance-type sales off the already discounted prices.

"I saw this dress earlier in the summer -- $34.99 a few months ago, now it's $16.95," said Jacqueline Crockett, a savvy Stein Mart shopper.

Arroz recommended visiting the websites and welcome centers of outlet malls before you shop them. She said they often have coupons for more discounts on the discounts.

She also suggested researching the manufacturers' suggested retail prices online before you shop the discount chains to make sure you're really saving what they claim you're saving.

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