“where cheap is chic” — wisebread
In this review:
  1. Outlet Shopping vs. Retail
  2. Outlet Quality
  3. Outlet Coupons & Policies
  4. Clothing Outlets
  5. Kids Clothing Outlets
  6. Swimwear Outlets
  7. Footwear Outlets
  1. Accessories Outlets
  2. Bedding and Bath Outlets
  3. Luggage and Cookware Outlets
  4. Sports Outlets, Sunglasses Outlets
  5. Outlet Prices vs. Retail Prices
  6. Summer Outlets
  7. Outlets vs. Retail: The Winners Chart

Swimwear Outlets

Most everyone needs swimwear for the summer, so we scoped out the outlet and retail offerings for men, women, teens, and kids at Quiksilver, Gap, and Tommy Bahama.

These days, two-piece women's swimsuits, including bikini styles, are often sold as separates. The outlet for Quiksilver, which specializes in casual and sports-oriented garments, was selling a women's/junior's Roxy teal-striped bikini with tie-side bottom for $19.99 and halter-style top for $24.99, but a promotion on the day we visited set the price for two swimwear pieces at $34.99.

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At the local mall's PacSun retail store, a Roxy string-top bikini was selling for $29.50 and the bottom for $29.50. But PacSun was also running a special -- 50 percent off a bikini bottom with the purchase of a bikini top -- that netted a total tab of $44.25. At Nordstrom, we found a Roxy Penny Lane bandeau top for $48.00 and a pair of '70s low-rider bikini bottoms in the same style for $38.00, bringing the total outlay to $86.00.


The Quicksilver outlet carries Roxy bikinis.

There were only small price differences on women's swimwear between Gap outlet and retail venues. At the former, bikini tops and bottoms were tagged at $24.99 a piece compared with $38.95 for bikini tops and $36.95 for bikini bottoms at the retail unit. Whereas the outlet was offering additional 20 percent discounts on all swimwear, the retail store had marked down some styles to as low as $14.99 for tops and $12.99 for bottoms. One-piece swimsuits at the outlet were tagged at $44.99 ($35.99 with the discount) compared with $59.95 at the full-price location, while cover-ups were going for $31.99 at the outlet and started at $34.95 at the mall store.

Price differentials were far greater on Tommy Bahama swimwear. A women's one-piece suit, Pearl Solids in Valencia orange, carried a $64.00 tag at the outlet mall after a 50 percent discount off the MSRP while the $142.00 black-and-white Palms one-piece dropped to $71.00. A similar Tommy Bahama Pearl one-piece retailed for $126.00 at Nordstrom and at Tommy Bahama online.

Moving over to the men's aisles, we spotted Quiksilver Mixed Words 22 and Tsunami 22 board shorts for $34.99 at the outlet. Online, Quiksilver carried board shorts, such as the Sideshow Hybrid and Crash A Lot 22-inch styles, at the full price of $49.50 each, and the Gamma Ray 21-inch and Padang board shorts for $52.00 each. Swim trunks at the Gap outlet were marked down to $19.99 from $34.99 and a 20 percent swimwear discount brought the trunks to a $15.99 price point. Pickings were slim at the retail Gap, however, where board shorts, the only style of men's swimwear available, cost $39.95. We found trunks, like the Out of My Sway, at the Tommy Bahama outlet for $50.40 while a comparable pair, the Tommy Bahama Relax Veranda Rights swimsuit, sold for $58.00 at Nordstrom.


Board shorts came out cheaper
at the outlet.

Among the stores we shopped at, only Gap carried children's swimwear. Girls' one-piece suits were $24.99 at the outlet, or $17.49 after an extra 30 percent off. Boys' swim shorts ranged in price from $19.95 to $24.95, with additional discounts of 20 percent to 30 percent, depending on the style. Girls' one-pieces and bikinis and boys' swim trunks retailed for $19.95 on up, although sales lowered the cost of some to $14.95.

Last but not least, beach towels. We found these at Quiksilver, which set the outlet price at $16.99 and online price at $30.00 to $47.00.

Perceived quality and style differences between outlet and retail inventory varied by brand. The selection at the Quiksilver outlet includes some pieces made specifically for the factory stores (designated by a "Y" in front of the style number) and some past-season merchandise that didn't sell at retail. Outlet store-only pieces are typically fabricated using designs from the previous year and quality seemed good.

Review continues below

Swimwear at the Gap outlet, like the outlet clothing, appeared to be a step below retail offerings. Men's and women's outlet suits were half the price of retail, however, making them a good buy for those who don't swim often or who simply prefer a new suit every season. However, we did find several discounted retail suits online that were cheaper than outlet swimsuits, so keep an eye out for Gap retail sales before buying outlet.

The quality of Tommy Bahama's swimsuits, again like the brand's clothing, was equal whether items were purchased at the outlet or at retail. The difference here involved styling. Although we didn't consider outlet styles to be outdated, we did sense that Tommy Bahama styles in general are less likely to appeal to young adults or teens.

by Gina Briles (Google+ Profile)

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