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Save time and money by outlet shopping online instead of in person

“The discounts can be very deep up to clearance levels, 60% to 70% in some cases,” one expert said.

SAN ANTONIO — Save time, money and frustration by outlet shopping online instead of in person. 

See if your favorite outlet is online before you dedicate a full day to driving to an outlet mall. Just keep a few things in mind before you hit the buy button.

Do this to see if a store has an online outlet.

“Google the name of the retailer and ‘outlet’ and so many surprising options will pop up,” said Trae Bodge, a smart shopping expert. “The discounts can be very deep up to clearance levels, 60% to 70% in some cases.”

A few online outlets include Best Buy, REI, Zales, J.Crew Factory, Banana Republic Factory, Gap Factory Outlet, Nordstrom Rack, Saks Off 5th, and 6 p.m., the outlet for Zappos.

Amazon has both an Amazon Outlet and Amazon Warehouse. Amazon Outlet sells overstock and clearance items. Amazon Warehouse features discounts on open box and returned items. Amazon Warehouse will list the condition of the product so you can make an informed decision on the purchase. Amazon Warehouse items also are covered by the Amazon return policy, so if you are unsatisfied with an item, you can return it within 30 days.

“You’ll often find discounted or overstocked merchandise, usually from a former season,” Bodge said.

Here is the advantage of online rather than in-store:

“Shopping the online outlets, you’re going to get a much greater selection, different kind of sizes, maybe a really small size or big and tall,” said Kyle James of the shopping hacks website Rather Be Shopping. “Many times the online outlet has a much greater selection, especially when it comes to colors.”

"I actually don't like going to outlet malls, especially on a weekend, which is my only free time," Bodge said. "They're just crowded. I love the idea of an online outlet."

Be a careful customer before you buy. Check the quality. Some brand-name outlets do not necessarily sell their own brand-name products.

“It’s cheaper for a reason, right,” James said. “It’s usually lower quality. I bought some J.Crew pants that I got from an outlet, ordered them online from their online outlet, and they came like paper thin. I mean, it’s really unusual. I was expecting J.Crew quality. You’re just not going to get it typically with the outlets.”

Also, understand the return policy. It may not be the same as the brand name store.

“The return policies can have restocking fees,” James said. “There can be shipping fees. So know what the return policy is before you shop at these online outlets because in some cases it might be better to shop at the regular store and get a better return policy rather than saving money upfront but then having to pay a bunch of money to return it.”

Think twice before you buy final sale items online. Yes, they are super cheap, but you cannot return them, so if they do not work out for you, you are stuck with the item.

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