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I just read some misconceptions in another thread about outlet stores and thought I'd start one on the subject.

First of all the large outlet stores - the ones with lots of merchandise and plenty of locations - i.e. Polo, Brooks, etc., do, in fact, buy product specifically for the stores. The outlet divisions are usually separate buying groups within the company. It is a misconception to say, however, that because of that the clothes are of lesser quality than in the regular price stores. The fact is that if an item is labeled with an MSRP on the ticket, then it must be exactly the same as what would be offered in a regular priced store, or from the wholesale division through a department store. These garments are the same designs and are sourced from the same factories as the regular priced items, but are offered for less money at the outlets - usually 20% to 30% - because of higher volume/smaller product mix, far lower real estate costs (usually out of the way locations), and generally more basic offerings.

The outlet division puts their lines together by buying from the regular lines, but at a slightly later date - usually six months to a year. Obviously with continuing items like basic polo shirts and chinos this time delay is irrelevant. For the kids product at outlets there is usually no delay at all. It is exactly the same stuff at exactly the same time, but for less money - kids is a great deal at outlet.

There are often items that you will not find outside of the outlet, but these will not have an MSRP on the tag, and it is pretty easy to pick them out. In the POLO outlets, for example, most of the items (indeed almost all of them) are the real deal. They are things that have been done in the wholesale or regular price retail division.

In addition, the outlets still serve the original function for which they were created - to unload merchandise that has not sold at retail. These are usually called Store Returns. They are now a very small portion of their offerings, but they still do exist, and you can still get some incredible deals on things if you get there at the right time.

Regarding a specific misconception at POLO Ralph Lauren outlets: The suits that are offered at the polo outlets (the ones offered as a full product line, not the store returns) are, in fact, regular suits offered elsewhere besides the outlets - not, as someone mentioned in another thread - cheap suits made just for the outlets. They are not, however, regular POLO suits. They are LAUREN suits, a completely different and much lower quality line. Until recently, the Lauren line was not even done by Ralph Lauren. It was licensed, and designed and manufactured completely outside the RL company, with some oversight and approval by RL. RL has since pulled the licenses for Lauren and will be doing it themselves - but it still will be a lower level line than POLO, Blue Label, Black Label, or Purple Label.

I hope this is an informative post and clears up some of the ideas about what is on offer at outlet stores. They are a great source for a lot of basics. I will say, however, they don't always offer the best basics - not that they are different, just that they aren't always the preffered option. For example: The Brooks oxfords are of the fused collar variety instead of the non-fused ones, and the pleated chinos at Polo are the "wrinkle free" ones (Yes, these are - or at lease were - offered at regular price) which really ticks me off. But the oxfords at Polo outlets are the same as in the stores (There is only one kind), and so are the pique polo shirts.

Cheers.
 
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