History in the Making

Retail vs Outlet- Worth it?

The whole topic of buying retail as opposed to buying outlet is certainly popular right now. CBC (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) recently aired a piece on the question of quality in outlet stores. It is not so straightforward as to be, “it’s all terrible, or it’s all quality”- but that seems to be the approach that most people take. Because I have enough of it to compare, my examples will come from Kate Spade! (Also, feel free to read my related posts, Alternatives to Outlet Stores and Tips to Prepare for Outlet Shopping!)

Are outlet stores a cheaper way to find all of your favourite designers regular merchandise? Probably not. Realistically, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This is the age of the internet- we all have the ability to do research, so people need to stop relying on the fact that outlet stores did sell overstocked and imperfect retail merchandise in the 1970s and 1980s. This is 2016, do your own research!

Outlet stores are now places for designers to sell lower-value lines for lower prices. You may find the odd piece here or there that was made for their retail store, but that’s just luck! (Well, partial luck, and partial knowing your own outlets.) Kate Spade’s outlets and Surprise Sales seem to be split roughly 90%/10% for outlet/retail. However, are these specific pieces inherently bad? I would argue no. When I go to the Kate Spade outlet, I can purchase a sweater for a a third of the price of a sweater in the Kate Spade retail store. I recognise that it is not the same quality sweater that I am buying in the retail store, but that does not mean that it is worthless by any stretch of the imagination. The sweater is worth what I paid at the outlet, so I have not been “tricked” or “hoodwinked”, which is what a lot of people claim.

At this point in time, Kate Spade is actually producing lines specifically for the outlet (and stores like Winners, Marshall’s, and Nordstrom Rack). There are differences, certainly- lesser quality leathers, more vinyl items, specific lining, a cloth or plastic name plate instead of metal or stamped, a cut out Spade or large Spade logo, and mixed materials in clothing. I have noted some of the differences on my Metro Spade Darby here:

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My Metro Spade Darby is 100% an outlet item- but it is exactly what I was looking for! I was looking for a slim, red crossbody; I adore the cut-out spades, and the shiny finish. Is it going to last 10 years? Maybe not, but for $80 and the fact that it perfectly meets my needs, it’s a good bargain!

My Sawyer Street Maxi tote that I purchased in May from the Surprise Sale is also an outlet item. The straps are thinner, the logo is a cut-out spade (the hallmark of a Spade outlet item), the lining is the “Kate Spade New York” script lining (another hallmark of outlet status), and there are no feet on it. I paid $99 USD for it, while the comparable retail version (Cedar Street Small Harmony) is $268 USD. I wanted this for work, to be able to carry things to and from meetings. I wasn’t looking to purchase an investment bag for this, just something elegant that will be big enough for some files and a notebook! My Sawyer Street Maxi achieves all of this, for less than half of the price.

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There are more positives to the outlet side of things- some people are specifically searching these outlet items out now! I’m in a few Kate Spade re-sell groups on Facebook, and people are currently going crazy over the hot air balloon outlet items. My Scottie print tote bag and wallet were only made for outlets/Surprise Sale, and I adore them. If you aren’t looking for a classic style, or a leather bag, the outlet is a goldmine!

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As much I as love Kate Spade, I realistically could not afford to purchase the full price retail version of every item I own. However, I still love the aesthetic and the company! Outlets and stores like Nordstrom Rack and Winners allow me to purchase more items in Kate Spade’s style within my budget. Are you getting the purse that was sold for $398 USD for $150 USD? Unless it is defective, out of season, or a less-popular colour or style, NO. However, is what you bought worth what you paid at the outlet? Most likely, yes! Ignore that “Suggested Retail Price” and just compare the item and it’s quality with the price you will actually pay, not what it “may” have sold for.

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What are your thoughts on outlets??

Until tomorrow,
The Historian!

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