Ten years ago, it was possible to get a top-quality, brand-name product at a good discount from the average outlet mall. But most brands now sell lesser-quality items made just for their particular outlets.
There are varying opinions on this (practice); some consumer advocates compare it to a bait-and-switch, while outlet mall owners (and managers) maintain that the stores are giving the public exactly what it wants-brand-name goods at rock-bottom prices. They further say that the difference between outlet and retail products can be so subtle that they’re barely noticeable to the average shopper (for example, Hagen Thompson, manager of the Loft Outlet (a subsidiary of Ann Taylor) in Folsom, CA, explained that a sweater may have a 12-bow embroidery in a retail establishment, but will have seven bows and be made of a cheaper fabric in the outlet store. “It’s a way to cut cost, but you lose some of the details,” she said.
Outlets are big business: Since 2006, 39 outlet centers have opened, as opposed to only one regional mall, according to Value Retail News.
When outlet malls debuted nearly 40 years ago, they were not moneymakers. But over time, their popularity too off; there’s now more than 300 in the U.S. (Besides Ann Taylor, Coach, Gap, Banana Republic, Juicy Couture and Polo Ralph Lauren are just a few of many that sell made-for-outlet products) As the industry grew, outlets became a distribution channel in their own right (aided greatly by the tough economic times).
The reputation of outlets as “treasure hunts” for brand-name goods fuels the sport of outlet shopping (outlets often tout prices of 25 percent to 65 percent less than full retail). Also, because outlets are often miles from a major city, shoppers feel pressure to make the trip worthwhile.
Baby Boomers Jumping Into Self-employment
It’s becoming a more common sight to see baby boomers getting into self-employment; more than 23 percent of entrepreneurs who started companies in 2012, are age 55 to 64 (an increase from 14 percent in 1996, according to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit that tracks startup activity).
Those who dream of starting new ventures in their 50s and 60s face challenges that go beyond the usual ones facing entrepreneurs: There’s a 50/50 chance that an American business will make it past the five-year mark (based on U.S. Census Bureau data). And recovery from a failure could be more difficult.
“If you take a boomer that’s 55, they don’t have 20 to 30 years to recover from an up-and-down business or business mistakes,” said Michele Markey, vice president of the Kauffman Foundation’s FastTrac program (full name: Kauffman FastTrac New Venture for the Boomer Entrepreneur; so far, this 10-week course is located and can be taken in Irvine, Calif., Miami and New York City. The California course covers topics like: networking, putting together business plans and franchising-particularly appealing to older entrepreneurs because it offers an established company’s brand and support system, but with the independence of running and operating your own business).
Sources: “Are prices a bargain at outlet stores?”-Sacramento Bee-The (Sunday) Vindicator, December 22, 2013 and “More boomers taking control”-The Orange County Register-The (Sunday) Vindicator, January 19, 2014