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Outlets/High-End Brands

Gancini

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All,

Quick question here - if buying a high-end brand from an outlet store (Saks Off 5th, Barneys Warehouse, etc.), what are the chances that it's outlet-specific?

For example, if you find something by Canali, Armani Collezioni, Brioni, Kiton, Isaia, Zegna, Charvet, Ferragamo, Prada, RLBL, Gucci, Jil Sander, etc. from one of these stores, would it be a lower-quality item? I would think that brands like these wouldn't bother and that what you would find would be past-season or something "leftover" and available in only one or two specific sizes that the main store is trying to get rid of.

Additional examples: I once found a Barba shirt on the Barneys Warehouse site... I often see Brioni shirts there too. I've even seen John Lobb shoes on there. I would also think that a brand like Canali or Charvet wouldn't make low-quality suits/shirts/ties for an outlet.

And yes, I understand, that some of you might think that the brands I mentioned are not "high-end" enough for you, but I'm talking about "in the grand scheme of things" here... we're not talking about Old Navy.

Any thoughts?
 
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Gus

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In my former business I designed and manufactured products for a wide variety of major retailers outlet stores. There are so many outlets across the country that the only way they can keep the shelves filled is to have a regular flow of outlet specific merchandise manufactured and shipped to them on a very tight schedule. In order to keep their profits high and the cost low for customers, the brand or manufacturer presents a variety of products to the outlet buyer who will then press even further for any way possible to get even better pricing (margin).

When it comes to a major, true quality brand, they rarely want to risk cheapening their product or image. However, they still want to keep up their volume or maybe keep one of their factories busy. So, they may look for some basic cost cutting steps in order to produce outlet specific products such as 1) using a quality but simple fabric, 2) a lighter weight fabric, minimize sewing details 3) go to their fabric suppliers and get close-out yardage at reduced cost. The cost of fabric really varies even within collections of well known quality brands. Many larger mills will produce a simple, lighter cloth that is much less expensive and ideal for these high volume projects.

Aside from these outlet-specific items, retailers will also include their own close-outs. These are regular inventory items that didn't sell and are being blown out the door at real savings. I think for most bargain hunting guys on Styleforum these are the real gems. A friend picked up a pair of beautiful $1,600 John Lobbs for $395 at Last Call.

All that being said, you can still find a few better quality brand outlet stores were little or nothing is outlet-specific. Etro is an excellent example. It appears to be all excess regular inventory. However, everything is one full year old.

Watch out though because some brands used to be regular merchandise and due to the growth of their outlets now sell mostly outlet specific merch.

Saks off 5th, Neimans Last Call, Nordstrom Rack and other department store outlets are mostly outlet specific and I find the quality "questionable" especially when branded with the department stores name verses a well respected premium brand. As an example, if I saw Brioni cashmere socks at Last Call, they would be an excellent deal. If I saw Neimans private label cashmere socks at their store, I wouldn't waste my money at any price. I doubt you would get more than 10 wears out of them.
 

Gancini

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I think that's what I'm getting at. I generally don't buy the Saks or NM brand. I'm more concerned about brands like Brioni, Isaia or Charvet. If I buy a shirt or tie from one of those brands, would THAT be cheaper/outlet-specific? Or just a good deal?
 

Gus

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I've never seen a Charvet or Brioni item that seemed to be made for an outlet. I have seen a few Isaia that may have been made specificly for STF but were still very good quality.
 

Gancini

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Thanks! Any thoughts on the other brands I mentioned earlier?
 

Gus

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I can't go through every brand scenario and even if I did, as I mentioned earlier, some brands that may have recently changed and begun making outlet-specific merch. So consumers have to use their own intuition to evaluate the quality and materials and ask themselves, "Are these up to the brands usual standards or not."
 

Gancini

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Thanks, GusW! Anyone else have any thoughts on the matter?
 

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