Here at Brit + Co, we pride ourselves on being super shoppers. From online shopping to fast fashion to department stores, there’s not a retail scene that doesn’t excite us. But even we can admit that a Saturday spent at the outlet malls, while majorly lucrative for us budget-friendly babes, can be an overwhelming task. So we’re spilling all of our secrets for not only surviving a trip to the outlets, but for *slaying* it. From styling strategies to prep work, this is your go-to guide for outlet mall success.
How to Prepare
1. Do some soul searching. First and foremost, go through your closet to clear out, organize and give away any unwanted items you may have forgotten about. How many times have we all experienced that moment when you come home from a successful day of raiding the racks only to realize that you already have a few of your finds? Knowing what you have is half the battle and will help you as you search for what you need or want. Speaking of what you want — skim through the latest additions to your Pinterest boards to remind yourself of what you’re looking to add to your closet and/or home. This way, when you’re bombarded by the number of products in stores, you’ll have your most lust-worthy items top of mind.
2. A little research goes a long way. Check the outlet mall’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages for exclusive savings or sale alerts. You can also see if your favorite stores have their own localized social media accounts. There, you can sneak a peek at their current selection and see if they’re running any special promotions. Knowledge is power.
3. Embrace your inner crazy coupon lady. Hey, if you’re going to the outlets, you might as well maximize your savings. Visit the outlet mall website for printable coupons (throwback, right?). Some outlet malls have apps that may include additional offers and savings as well. Download them for the day and delete them after your shopping sesh. When in doubt, stop at the customer service kiosk to see if they have any coupon books on hand.
4. Bring a friend or five. Remember, when you’re up to your eyeballs in marked-down cashmere, you’re going to need a voice of reason to talk you down from buying them all. We’ve found that moms are the best for situations like these, but a friend who tells it like it is will do the trick too. Make sure you’re all on the same page when it comes to shopping strategies. If one requires hand-holding for every purchase while the other likes to dash off on her own, you’ll need to iron out those details ahead of time. Most importantly, make sure all members of your party have eaten before you venture out. There is nothing worse than finally reaching your destination only to make your first stop the food court because someone didn’t plan ahead (we can practically feel the deals slipping away).
5. Get a taste of what to expect. Outlets are no longer a place for cast-offs or weird color runs that didn’t make the customer-facing cut. Many retailers now create lines specifically for their outlet and factory stores that mimic their traditional line, often with fewer embellishments or colors to choose from. We recommend revisiting the websites of the stores you plan to stop by and get a feel for the styles you like and what to look for.
What to Wear
1. Silence + Noise Tri-Color Ringer Tee Dress ($54): Must-have alert! This one-and-done dress makes fitting room sessions a total breeze. Find a lightweight dress you can shimmy in and out of in seconds to cut down on time in those often cramped fitting rooms. The athletic-inspired piping detail makes pairing this with comfy sneakers a no-brainer.
2. Vans Leather Slip-On ($60): No laces, no buckles, no fuss! These slip-ons will help you keep your cool after hours on your feet of can’t-stop-won’t-stop shopping. Pair ’em with casual cotton-blend dresses for end-of-summer outlet adventures, and with army green skinnies and a denim jacket for the perfect autumn coffee run #OOTD.
3. Cambridge Satchel Mini Tassel Saddle Bag ($129): Lugging around a day planner, a massive wallet and all those extra lip products can add up when you spend the day on your feet. Take a good hard look at the contents of your go-to bag and edit down — way down. Stash the basics in a cross-body bag that will sit comfortably on your hip without tugging. Avoid any options with chain straps, which might add unnecessary weight or snag on clothes. Pro tip: Save room for a granola bar! Hangry at the outlet mall is not a good look on anyone.
4. Baggu Standard Reusable Bag ($9): If you live in an area with a bag ban in effect, these reusable bags are a total lifesaver. We try to keep a couple of these with us at all times. They can carry the contents of up to three plastic grocery bags, but can fold down into a flat five-inch pouch that you can easily slip right into your purse. So what we’re saying is that these bags are basically magic.
Your Shopping Strategy
Luckily, the layout of most outlet malls groups similar stores together so you can cut down on back-and-forth trips. We suggest starting with clothing and accessory stores first, since the idea of waiting in fitting room lines and trying on clothes after a long day sounds straight-up miserable.
1. Start with your designer or higher-end stores first. At these stores, avoid too-trendy pieces (after all, most outlets are final sale), and instead look for classics with lasting power. Chances are these items will still be quite expensive even with outlet pricing, so only splurge if you think you’ll get some serious bang for your buck. Opt for a chic designer bag in a color you’ll love for years to come, or a pair of classic black trousers that will make your workplace wardrobe. Lastly, remember that the sales staff is your friend — place items on hold that you really want to consider if you’re looking to weigh all your options. Most stores only allow holds for a few hours or until the end of the day (if at all), so be mindful of time.
2. Next, make your way to more traditional mall stores. Think Gap, J.Crew and Lululemon. Shift your lens to more trend-forward pieces. You can snag some serious deals in this category, so keep an eye out for trends you’ve pinned or have been wanting to try out. Plan to spend most of your time at these stores to account for longer fitting room and checkout lines. Outlet shopping is not the time to all of a sudden become a diva — you have to work for your savings — so don’t gloss over the clearance bins. We’ve scored some killer items (and bragging rights) all because we braved the bins.
3. Finally, hit the home goods stores. For furniture, you’ll want to come armed with a list of measurements of your current space. Take a few snaps of the rooms that need a little love so you can quickly decide yay or nay on that table lamp or ottoman. Look very carefully for signs of damage before you purchase an item, and if there is a little damage, be sure to ask a sales associate if they can offer you an additional discount to take it off their hands. Additionally, if you made the trek outside of town to the outlets, you’ll need a game plan for shipping pieces you can’t fit into your car. If there’s a delivery fee, spring for it, because it’ll save you another trip. Trust us — it’s totally worth it.
Lastly, have fun! It is shopping, after all. Outlet malls are usually outside of town, so why not make a day of it? Put on a shopping playlist for the drive over and stop for snacks or coffee along the way. Also, if the day ends and you don’t have any purchases to show for it, that’s totally okay! Outlet stores are notoriously hit or miss, so don’t feel like you need to make a purchase simply to justify the day trip. If anything, at least you can say you got your steps in, because as far as we’re concerned, outlet shopping totally counts as cardio.
Looking for more shopping inspiration or more weekend outfit ideas? Peruse our Pinterest.
Brit + Co may at times use affiliate links to promote products sold by others, but always offers genuine editorial recommendations.
(Photos via Getty)