The Cheapskate's Guide to Factory-Direct Outlets

by Jo Stewart Wray

At factory-direct outlets, savvy shoppers can save on brand-name and designer merchandise ranging from couches to linen and silverware. Discounts range from 20 to 80 percent.

In these outlets you can find first-quality overruns, seconds, samples, prototypes, discontinued items, and merchandise made to sell in outlets only. Very often the seconds have flaws that are almost imperceptible. Some items are tests of colors, patterns, or materials. Showroom or samples from a trade show may also be sold.

Some outlets accept phone orders from out of state. In this case, you may not have to pay sales tax on your purchases. You may be able to use a credit card when ordering over the phone, but to keep prices down, outlets are typically devoid of frills, services, and sales help.

You may find outlet that sell merchandise from a variety of manufacturers, but many sell only discontinued styles, irregulars, samples, and overruns from a single manufacturer. To find factory outlets near you, check your yellow pages and the Internet.

Tips for Shopping Outlets

  • Comparison-shop retail first. Then shop factory outlets near your home. These stores will have the best deals on many name brands - you may be able to save as much as 75 percent off the retail price. Although the merchandise may be second-quality, you will know if you are getting a good deal.
  • Most outlets have a clearance section. Shop it first for the best buys. If you don't find what you want, then try telephone ordering or Internet ordering from wholesale companies.
  • If you are shopping by mail order or on the Internet, don't forget to figure in the shipping costs.
  • If items are being discontinued, buy all you need at one time. Don't buy fads or trends.

Exerpted from The Cheapskate's Guide to Home Decorating by Jo Wray. You'll find it at your local bookstore and online at Barnes & Noble and

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