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12 of the best and worst outlet stores

12 of the best and worst outlet stores
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Theo Thimou |
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Shoppers who want real deals will often head to outlet stores and malls. But how can you tell a good outlet store from a bad one?

Read more: Are the deals better in stores or online?

Here are the best and worst outlet stores

A few years ago, Consumer Reports surveyed the market and come up with a list of the best and worst outlet stores.

To arrive at their findings, the magazine asked 15,789 Consumer Reports subscribers about their outlet shopping experiences over the course of more than 25,000 visits. The four criteria of value, quality, selection and helpfulness of staff were used to determine the rankings:

Stores that got the highest marks on all four criteria include:

VF Outlet got middling scores on value, quality and selection, along with a big fat black circle of shame — indicating the lowest score possible — when it comes to helpfulness of staff.

But it gets even worse. Among the outlet stores that really stunk it up were some really big names:

Old Navy and Gap in particular both got black circles for helpfulness and received the lowest scores out of nearly four dozen outlets surveyed!

Read more: The #1 secret you don’t know about outlet shopping

Outlet stores are changing

Outlet stores continue to be a huge draw for shoppers. Originally located at least 50 miles or more from an urban core, outlet stores attract people for daylong bonanzas of deeply discounted deals. Their big draw has historically been the big discounts on factory seconds and irregulars that were not quite up to snuff for regular retail sale.

Today, however, the industry has morphed and more goods are being made directly by manufacturers for their outlets stores. Manufacturers crank out products that looks like their high-end stuff, but they do it at a cheaper price point using inferior stitching and subpar material.

The good news is the average shopper isn’t likely to know the difference between something bought at a regular retail store and something purchased at an outlet — unless, of course, you’re schooled in the nuts and bolts of fashion production technology! So the lure of outlet stores continues unabated. Happy shopping!

Read more: 5 easy ways to save on popular Mother’s Day gifts