Outlet stores used to be a really spectacular thing. One could drive the 60+ miles away to sift through the piles of "irregular" clothing that didn't pass a brand's highest standards or try their luck at finding a past season item the regular stores overstocked and were unable to sell. Now, not so much.
These days outlet stores tend to carry their own merchandise. Yep, that's right. NOT the carry over items from regular stores. Sometimes you can find similar items in outlets, but they often don't have the same quality as the full price items at the normal stores.
Earlier this month I made the trek out to the Gilroy Premium Outlets with one goal in mind - find that navy blue Coach purse I had set my sights on. Before I went, however, I popped into my nearby Coach store to see if they carried it. I found a navy one, but it wasn't exactly what I was hoping for, so I told the sales associate that the one I was looking for had been purchased at an outlet. That's when she dropped the bomb. Coach outlets carry their own merchandise. Occasionally regular store items will make their way into a Coach outlet, but for the most part, outlets have their own stuff.
The Coach connoisseur will be able to tell the difference between an outlet purse and a full price, regular store purse just by looking at it. To the general public, those differences are a little harder to decipher. The tell tale sign is on the inside. The serial number on an outlet Coach purse has that prominent "F" in the serial number. "F" standing for "Factory" of course. If you care, you can save up your money and buy a regular store purse, but if you don't, you might get a deal at the outlets. Either way, it's better to be informed.
Just be warned that this doesn't only apply to Coach, this applies to nearly every outlet store around. Each place has their own tell tale signs. Sometimes the tag sewn into the merchandise will actually say "Factory Store" on it, but other times there may just be extra symbols (Banana Republic has used small diamond shapes in the past) on the tag. Moral to the story? Do your homework and be smart about your purchases. Also note that the "MSRP" is deliberately marked high to make it look like you're getting a deal when "their price" is significantly lower or it's advertised as "75% off."
If you want to read more, check out this article.