If you are a regular reader of the StyleDemocracy blog, you are definitely a big fan of warehouse sales, sample sales and outlet mall shopping. However, did you know that the product you buy at some outlet mall locations is worse quality that product from the stores?

A CBC Marketplace Investigation revealed that the traditional model of retailers using their own branded outlets to sell product that didn’t sell in their full price stores isn’t really holding up.  The CBC alluded that for some retailers, it has become standard practice to manufacture products and lines of clothing specifically for outlet stores.  The problem with this is that in order to maintain outlet prices, the made-for-store products are typically of a lesser quality than full-price lines – a fact the average shopper is not made aware of.

The CBC investigation unit looked at Coach, Kate Spade, Banana Republic and J.Crew and found that a majority of the products on sale were made specifically for the outlet, which meant that although the product looked similar, it differed in label or materials used.  The outlet-made products were actually so different that employees in the store could easily identify which products were made for the outlet and which products came from the store. A couple of years ago, a similar investigation from Buzzfeed surfaced. According to their report, Saks Off 5th executives told investors that just 10% of their merchandise comes from Saks stores, 25% is ‘private-label’ or house brand, and the rest is specifically created for outlets by vendors.

Long story short, it is almost impossible for retailers to keep their outlets filled with overstock from retail stores, especially when the retailer has more than one outlet. Brands have turned to creating product specifically for outlet stores due to the high demand and popularity of “discounted” designer goods. Essentially what this means for you is that if you are shopping at an outlet clothing store chain that has multiple locations, the product you are buying probably isn’t overstock from the store, it’s most likely cheaper product made specifically for the outlet.

So now that you know how some outlet stores work, why is shopping at warehouse sales better? While the overall shopping experience at an outlet store may be more pleasant than a warehouse sale, warehouse sales will often have higher quality product than an outlet store based off of how each sale model works.

How a warehouse sale works is simple: A company with an overstock issue contacts a company like StyleDemocracy and agrees upon certain terms of sale. Warehouse sales deal exclusively with product that is considered overstock, meaning it comes directly from the retailers’ store or warehouse, and often from the last preceding season.

What does this mean for you?  It means that you are getting product that is of the same quality as the product that the retailer sells in stores.  Some may argue that clothing found at a warehouse sale is dated and has already been passed over by people in the store. While it’s true that overstock sometimes is undesirable product that people don’t want, there are so many reasons why products become overstock and to be honest, while undesirability happens, it is not one of the biggest reasons.

If you think about it for a second, it’s a retail buyers job to ensure that the right product in the right amounts end up on the retail sales floor. Buyers are a fickle type and while it may seem like all they do is visit showrooms and fashion shows, you couldn’t be more wrong.  Most buyers jobs are comprised of looking tediously at spreadsheets and making decisions based on brands and products that sold well in previous seasons. Buyers are often fired for making the wrong purchasing decisions so most buyers like to play it safe and buy more of the “good” stuff that sold last season and steer away from the unknown or unpopular product. This is a major win for you as a warehouse sale shopper. When there is overstock, a good portion of that product will be the “good” stuff that the buyer bought too much of.

Too much of a good thing is good for you – it allows us to provide you with the best quality of product we can get our hands on, and because it’s overstock we can sell it to you at a great price!

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