Columbia Star

Many vacationers make shopping a destination




Do you have any tips for outlet shopping while on vacation?

For many vacationers, shopping at nearby outlets malls is a big part of the travel itinerary. Realizing the deal might be in the details, the Federal Trade Commission has useful tips for successful shopping at these popular outlets.

“For many of us, it just wouldn’t be a summer beach vacation without shopping at the local outlet mall. Over the years, we’ve picked up a few tips for outlet shopping,” says Colleen Tressler, FTC consumer education specialist.

Here are her tips:

• Make a list of the stores you want to visit. Next, check out the retail prices of items you want to buy. There are apps that can compare prices for you, or you can visit the regular retail stores websites. If you’re only saving a few dollars at the outlets, you may want to buy at the regular stores, especially if quality matters.

• Take a good look at what you’re buying. Many stores sell products at their outlets made exclusively for those outlets. These items may be of lower quality than what’s sold in the regular stores. For example, a jacket might not be fully lined, the stripes on a shirt may not match up at the seams, a t-shirt may be made of a lighter-weight fabric, and shoes might be made with synthetic materials rather than real leather. If top quality is important, you may want to shop elsewhere. But if it’s the brand, style, or look that’s key, you may be in the right place.

• Pile on the savings. Look for special sales offers on outlet center websites. Student, teacher, senior, and military discounts also might be available. Coupons can add to your savings. Some outlet centers also offer shopper club memberships. If you join, you’ll get information about sales, events, exclusive offers from merchants, and other perks. With some clubs, you can earn gift cards and other rewards at various “spend levels.” Just be sure to read the fine print before you get to the checkout.

• Ask about return policies. Some outlet stores let you return unused merchandise any time if the price tag hasn’t been removed and you have the receipt. Other stores have 30- to 90-day return policies, and some don’t allow any returns. And many regular retail stores won’t take returns from their outlet stores, so ask the sales staff.

Planning an outlet shopping trip? Your one-stop resource might be the website The organization works with outlet malls and retailers across the United States to bring you up to date outlet shopping information, deals, coupons, events, news and tips for over 200 outlet malls and 12,000 outlet stores.

If you really want to hit the outlet malls on vacation, you can even plan an organized tour of them. See the website tours. For more shopping tips, see If you are an unhappy shopper, you can also file a complaint through the government site.

The Columbia Star wants to add to the community’s storehouse of knowledge, whether it is a neighborhood matter, a larger issue or a simple curiosity. We’ll do the footwork for you. Submit your questions to:

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