Factory outlet are discounted as the shoes are factory seconds. In addition, the outlets have frequent sales ranging from 15%-25% off the factory 2nd price. Discontinued models are often 1st quality at the outlets.
I've developed a relationship w/the manager of the Freeport, ME factory outlet. I've yet to get a pair that had a significant defect, in fact in most cases, I can't find anything that would make them a factory 2nd. You just have to inspect carefully as I have asked for a different pair at the store before purchase.
Once you figure out your size in the different lasts, you can order by phone at these outlets as well. Outlets will also email you a list of discontinued models in your size upon request.
I liked one of the discontinued models in the Italian made 'Seven' line. They were priced at $600 new. I paid just over $200 for these and they shipped from the Madison Ave. store. I can't imagine that they stock any factory seconds at that store so these may very well be 1st quality.
Note, I need to snap some new pics of these as I've achieved a decent mirror shine since these pics were taken. This is the only one I could find that's more recent. AE Tresana on far right:
Lastly, all of the above AE models were purchased at the outlet as factory 2nds. The brown bal with medallion toe (2nd fr right) is not an AE model.