Food & Drink

SAVING CENTSABLY: Outlet mall shopping not what it used to be

Our family moved to the Savannah area back in December. Prior to then, we lived just south of Atlanta, about 10 minutes from the Tanger Outlet in Locust Grove.

These days, when we mention to someone where we live, they say, “Oh! You are right near that new Tanger Outlet!” And yes, that is true. Now we are about five minutes from a Tanger Outlet to our south and about 35 minutes from a Tanger Outlet to the northeast.

With that much outlet shopping available, you would think I shopped at one of these outlets a lot, right?

Well, not really. You see, back in the late 1990s and the early 2000s, I remember outlet shopping being very different than outlet shopping is today. When I went to college, my roommate and I traveled up to Tanger Outlet in Locust Grove to see what deals we could score on bedding and decor for our dorm room.

Back then, most outlet stores were the places to which companies shipped their “seconds” and “flawed” merchandise. However, as outlets grew in popularity, there was a shift in both the type of merchandise they sold and in the clientele they sought to attract.

In the early 2000s, our family lived in Tennessee. When we visited Macon, we traveled past three different outlet mall locations. I began to notice that for the most part, outlets no longer had seconds or irregular merchandise. The sales and deep discounts I had come to expect when outlet shopping were not as easy to come by.

Eventually, our family quit frequenting the outlets as we traveled along Interstate 75 because the discounts just weren’t to be found.

What I know now from my own personal experience and from reading the opinions and facts presented from savings gurus and other bloggers is clear. Today’s outlet malls are to shopping what indoor malls once were.

No longer are outlet malls the place to go for deep discounts. Outlet malls are simply a collection of stores -- often the place to buy the most fashionable and up-to-date merchandise.

Yes, there are sometimes sales. Yes, there are sometimes deep discounts. But overall, rock-bottom, end-of-the-line, second-quality merchandise is no longer what can be found in the outlets.

Now, I do believe outlet malls can save families time and money -- but not in the way they once did.

If, for example, I need a pair of khaki pants for my eldest son, a pair of shorts for my daughter and a new shirt for my husband, we could simply park our vehicle in the middle of the lot and walk the perimeter of the outlet mall -- stopping at each store to find the items we need. This eliminates driving all over the city hunting for the best price or the right size.

We can just park the car and walk until we find all the items we need. We will have saved money by not using up all the gasoline.

Do you do much outlet mall shopping? What changes have you noticed in this type of shopping over the years?

Contact writer Rachael Mercer at