Factory Shopping: Did I just save some money?

Ever wish you had a second pair of those favorite shoes? Do you long for a replacement part for that off-brand coffee pot? Want to find a place to do some serious power shopping? Factory outlet shopping might be the place for you.

For many years, large department stores and manufactures have used outlets to sell the discounted or overstocks. Today, outlet malls are strategically placed near major highways and prove to be a very popular place to stop, grab a bite, stretch you legs, and may be the place to find a bargain. 

Manufactures have very high quality standards yet once in awhile a machine slips creating a slightly blemished product that ends up at the factory store. Alternatively, the stitching may not be as exact as the quality standards require. OR, once in while, a manufacture really misses the mark on what the consumer will buy (i.e. the demand for candy dishes in the shape of chickens just did not live up to forecast). In many cases, factory outlet stores are places where last year's models get shipped.

On Sunday, a friend called and invited me to take a quick trip to a regional factory outlet mall. Over 75 stores, all promising to save me money.

Lessons learned: -I should have visited a few sites before my big trip: www.factory-outlet-stores.net or www.outletbound.com.
-I didn't find everything I needed, but I did find mostly clean rest rooms, a full price food court, and some interesting color outfit combinations.
-It is important to try on clothing and shoes since the sizes may vary from what you're used to.
-Give everything a thorough once over—open boxes and know the model numbers of that coffee pot. (That coffee pot lid sure looked like it would fit but heck, it was only $3.50!)
-Save your receipts in case something needs to be returned.

Moral of the story: fun drive with my friend, I now know where to get glass candy dishes in the shape of chickens, and where to get yellow tennis shoes.

Cathy Williams is a former writer for MMI.