Monday, December 23, 2013

You May Not Be Getting The Deal You Think When Shopping at Saks OFF 5TH

I started this blog over five years ago.  Having always been a fan of retail and shopping and deals, I've tinkered with the idea of sharing shopping related experiences as special posts on the site.  This is the first of what may become a series of retail adventures.

It's no secret that outlet shopping is not what it once was.  Today, more than half of a typical outlet is made up of merchandise manufactured for or purchased specifically for outlet sale, often of lesser quality than the full line merchandise.

At stores like J. Crew, Gap, and Banana Republic, there are identifying features on the tags of clothing and other related merchandise so that one can readily identify them as being made specifically for the outlet.

At Saks Fifth Avenue, however, it is a little more difficult, and may be near impossible to determine the origin of much, if not all, of their outlet merchandise.

According to a Saks spokesperson,  only 12% of its OFF 5TH merchandise comes from its namesake Saks Fifth Avenue stores.  The remaining 88% of the merchandise is sourced directly from vendors and is likely lower quality, less expensive merchandise.

There are about about 70 Saks OFF 5TH locations, and only about 40 Saks Fifth Avenue locations, making it difficult to supply the outlet stores with enough full line merchandise on a regular basis, hence the need for other, (lower quality) merchandise.  In Georgia, there are three OFF 5TH stores but only one full line Saks Fifth Avenue.

Even if you do find merchandise that may have originated in a full line Saks, you may not be getting a deal.

I recently visited their store at Sugarloaf Mills in Lawrenceville, and all but swore to myself I would not ever return.  In my opinion, there are no "deals," and nearly 90% of what I looked at, I could tell was purchased especially for the outlet.

A short time later, I accompanied a friend to North Georgia and was convinced to step into Saks OFF 5TH.  As I approached the exit, having found nothing worthwhile, a small bowl caught my eye.  The bowl was glass, came in a green box, made by Lenox for Kate Spade.  The bowl was about 6 inches in diameter, and had etched dandelions around much of the outside.  I had seen this bowl before, months ago, at T.J. Maxx and Marshalls stores around Atlanta.

I recalled the price for the bowl at T.J. Maxx and Marshalls being $25, on clearance from $40, with a "compare at" price of $60.

I picked up the bowl from the table at Saks and saw it priced at $124.99.  Shocked, I picked up the other two like bowls and each reflected the same "original" price.  I was sure this was the same bowl I had seen previously at T. J. Maxx and Marshalls, sure enough, it was.  I peeled back the Saks "outlet" sticker that was covering the original Lenox / Kate Spade price sticker and revealed the original manufacturer's price of $60.

Today the bowl can be found in many places online and in store.  This is a link to the exact bowl for sale on Bed Bath & Beyond's website for $29.99, on sale from $59.99.

Another, slightly larger bowl, originally priced by Lenox at $125, was "outlet" priced at $139.99.

I was so angry at this manipulation and deception, I could do nothing but walk out.  I later called the store and spoke to Andy, who identified himself as the store manager.  He suggested the prices may have been "transversed."

Of course not all outlets participate in such shady and fraudulent shenanigans.  To their credit, Tommy Bahama, notably, actually uses their outlets to sell unsold, past season, and overstock full-line merchandise.   Nordstrom RACK is one of the best department store run outlet stores for actually finding a deal.  A friend just scored a pair of Salvatore Ferragamo shoes for 97% off: $10.  Neiman-Marcus and Bloomingdale's can each be hit or miss.


Anonymous said...

Bargain shoppers know Nordie Rack is the best!

nsk said...

In other news, fast food may cause obesity and illnesses when consumed in excess.

Amy said...

this is a funy post. Eli - big deal, I was in Off 5th yesterday and paid less for a dress that I saw at MArshalls as well. Six to one half dozen and most of Nordstrom Rack (about 75%) is not from their stores either. It is bought from the vendors (overstock etc) to sell in thier rack stores like Off 5th. MArshalls and TJ are the same as well!!

Anonymous said...

we landed on the moon???

Tres said...

The only outlets really worth checking out in my book are Cole Haan and Polo. I've definitely seen stuff I've seen in those stores at Nordstrom and Macy's and what not previously. Or if you go to some of the "high-end" outlets in places like Orlando, that's pretty legit too.

Everyone else (Gap, Banana, J. Crew, Brooks Brothers), you may as well just wait for a sale at the "real" store. You may even get a better deal there.

Unknown said...

Interesting article. I've shopped Saks Off 5th a lot and haven't been disappointed w I th the quality of my purchases or the pricing. I suggest that you have some basic knowledge of the designer and their regular price points.If you're disappointed with your purchase call customer service for a return shipping label. If the item is a final sale,gift it or better yet, donate it. I am sure that it will be appreciated and help to make someone's day.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

You just have to know where to score a deal. I've always found better sales at Dillard's versus Macy's. I noticed Macy's selling items like I purchased on sale at Dillards 2 years prior. Sacs off 5th holds their merchandise too long before marking it down to a reasonable price.

Anonymous said...

I feel the people commenting are missing the point. Your intention when writing this article clearly shows what marketing practices some stores will go to at length to deceive their customers into thinking that they are getting a great deal, when in fact, they are not. It is fraud, manipulation, and preying on the lack of observation and critical thinking of its shoppers.

Thank you for bringing awareness to this as I myself, recently, noticed a Tod's bag at Saks Off 5th and wondered why it only ever showed on Saks Off 5th website and not Tod's nor the regular Saks website. They do produce a lower quality product for outlet stores, especially here in California.

Anonymous said...

I greatly appreciate the posting about the Off 5th tags with higher prices that were covering the original tags. I had this same experience, only I noticed it once I got home and was taking off the label on a Waterford piece. I saw that the price underneath was much lower. I had such high regard for the original Saks and shopped there often. It never occurred to me that Off 5th, part of such a reputable brand, would be so deceptive. When I returned it, the manager apologized but I noticed that all of the items in the Waterford collection were similarly labeled with higher prices. I have never gone back. I don't have the time to try to lift labels and check prices to see if Off 5th is trying to take advantage of people.

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