1. Compare prices first. Just because an item’s at an outlet doesn’t mean it’s a bargain. Do a price check via smartphone or computer before you buy.
2. Time it right. Price slashing generally takes place on holidays and during traditional retail sales periods, including Black Friday. If you can, plan your trip for Tuesday through Thursday, when there are fewer shoppers. And shop early in the day, when merchandise hasn’t been picked over.
3. Plan your trip. To avoid wasting time and missing bargains, log on to your local outlet center’s website and download a map before shopping. The typical outlet mall today covers more than 400,000 square feet and has 100 or more stores.
4. Get the coupon book. While you’re on the website, look for printable coupons. Some centers charge a fee for a book of coupons on-site, but you can generally download it free by signing up for the rewards program. Or go to customer service to get a hard copy.
5. Check out rewards programs. You can get exclusive, personalized coupons and sale offers. At the website for Tanger, which operates 40 malls nationwide, including Glendale, a one-time $10 fee earns you free gift cards once you hit certain spending levels, free coupon books that you can access on your mobile device, exclusive Web offers and more. At Simon, which has 68 outlet malls across the U.S., if you sign up for the free VIP Shopper Club, you get a free coupon book, sales alerts and exclusive coupons.
6. Use apps. PriceGrabber and Red Laser, for example, scan bar codes and search for better deals online and in nearby stores. And see whether the outlet mall has its own app. Tanger’s, for example, displays exclusive offers that pop up when you’re nearby.
7. Seek other discounts. Ask about any additional perks for AARP members, college students or military members. On Tuesdays at Simon outlet malls, shoppers 50 and older get 10 percent off at participating stores.
8. Know the return policy. Most regular retailers won’t take returns from outlets. And most outlets don’t have an online presence, although J.Crew Factory and Saks Off Fifth do; outlet stores might not take returns from their websites.