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Outlet malls - are the savings worth it?
Experiment finds prices at traditional malls can be just as competitive

MMI Copywriter

By Kim McGrigg, MMI Community Manager

Been to an outlet mall lately? Chances are that you have. According to, about 55 million Americans shop in at least one of the nation's roughly 300 outlet malls every year.

I was recently one of those 55 million people to visit my "local" outlet mall. This wasn't the first time I've shopped at the outlets, but this time I went with a different purpose: to determine how much money outlet shopping can save me.  

My plan was to do a simple cost comparison of identical items sold in outlet stores and regular retail shops. This turned out to be not-so-simple for the following reasons:

  • Many stores found in the outlet mall do not have regular retail storefronts in my local "regular" mall. Examples of this were the Kenneth Cole Outlet, the LEGO Store, and the Nautica Factory Store.
  • For brands that do have storefronts in both outlet and regular malls, most do not carry the same merchandise at both types of stores. Some outlets offer past-season or "imperfect" regular merchandise while others offer completely different merchandise made specifically for the outlet store. 
  • Some of the stores in the outlet mall didn't seem much like outlets. In fact, the outlet mall was anchored by a standard Target Superstore. Some of the other stores in the outlet mall that appeared to be more or less identical to those outside of the outlet mall include Borders Books & Music Cafe, Hallmark Gold Crown Store, and Bath and Body Works.

Taking all of these things into consideration, I did find a few stores with locations in both the outlet and regular malls that offered items at each that were identical or nearly identical.

So how much did I save by shopping at the outlets?

I was very surprised to learn that the items I purchased cost $5.02 more at the outlets. In addition, the sales tax is 1.2% higher at the outlet mall than at my regular retail mall. Factor in the cost of the commute (the outlet mall is 23 miles from my house!) and my time, I think I'll shop at the traditional mall from now on.

How about you? Do you get great deals at the outlet mall?

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Online retailers are reading your mind

Your website shopping habits are a science


Shopping online is a great way to save time and money – when it’s done properly. It can also be an easy way to bust your budget with just a few clicks of the mouse.

Online retailers are becoming savvy to shoppers’ tendencies and habits, and they are putting that knowledge to use through tactics that seduce consumers and encourage them to spend money.

The following are two interesting methods online retailers and websites may use to tap into your shopping psyche.

The Science of Scarcity

Because scarcity generates demand and encourages people to buy sooner, online retailers capitalize on this by using tactics to ensure you realize just how scarce the item is.

Some websites will show you how many items they have left in the size you’re looking at (and it conveniently seems like there’s always only one left.)

They will also tell you that the item is already in someone else’s cart, but check back in a few minutes to see if it’s available. This, of course, makes you covet that item even more because people tend to want what they think they can’t have.

These are some ways websites display scarcity to consumers:

  • “For 1 week only”
  • “2 items in stock”
  • “Sale ends today”
  • “Out of stock – Add to wish list”
  • “This offer ends in 2 days 4 hrs 3 mins 17 secs” (Countdown timers)

Playing Mind Games

The field of neuro-marketing turns your buying habits into a fine science. And retailers are using this science to make a profit.

Research reported in The New York Times shows that if two similar items are next to each other on a web page, but one is selling for $200 and the other for $250, most people will choose the less expensive item. However, if there is a third item added to the mix for, say, $300, people are then more likely to buy the $250 item. The site may have no interest in actually selling the $300 item, but its mere presence on the page makes you more likely to “buy up.”

So keep those tactics in mind the next time you’re tempted to buy that pair of shoes that is 75 percent off for one day only, and you have a total of two minutes to make the purchase before your shoes magically land in another person’s virtual shopping cart. They’re just playing mind games. Don’t let the shoes win.

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Money Management International (MMI) is a nonprofit, full-service credit counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling, and debt management assistance to consumers since 1958. MMI helps consumers trim their expenses, develop a spending plan, and repay debts. Counseling is available by appointment in branch offices and 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by telephone and Internet. Services are available in English or Spanish. To learn more, call
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