Here are five tips for getting the most for your money:
For the best selection with the least hassle, Consumer Reports recommends visiting outlets at midweek. Arrive as early as you can to beat the hordes.
Prepare to compromise.
While many outlet malls offer a wide range of designer brands, the discount stores are unlikely to carry the same stock as the store you typically shop at. The Banana Republic and Gap outlets, for instance, carry an entirely separate line of low-cost clothes. This isn't always the case, however. The styles on sale at outlet stores may also be discounted because they're out-of-season.
If you're more concerned with price than perfection, look for "irregulars," clothes with minor defects. Irregulars are deeply discounted and the flaws are typically too small to be noticeable.
Watch for sales.
Before you head to the outlets, check your favorite stores' Web sites for coupons. Many outlet malls let you sign up to receive e-mail alerts when your favorite brands go on sale.
Take advantage of frequent-shopper cards.
If you regularly shop at the same mall, you can save a lot by joining the outlet chain's discount club. Prime Outlets, a chain with shopping centers throughout the country, offers the 1 Club card and Chelsea Premium has the VIP Lounge Club. Both memberships are free. Just sign up online to begin receiving weekly discounts via e-mail. For more info visit Premiumoutlets.com.
By Marshall Loeb