Outlet malls are on the rise across the United States and Canada – and the ubiquitous Michael Kors store is often their crown jewel, luring people outside city limits with the promise of luxury designer handbags at budget prices.
I recently wrote about how brands create lower quality factory lines for their outlet stores, tricking shoppers into thinking that inventory is greatly discounted premium product. Michael Kors is one of the leading offenders in this common marketing scam.
While I’m not against diffusion lines, I dislike that outlet customers are tricked into buying products of a different quality than what they think they’re getting. It’s a dishonest practice that often leaves customers less satisfied with their purchases in the long run , further compounding the evils of fast fashion.
Michael Kors is especially confusing for consumers as the company has additional diffusion brands. Here’s an overview:
Michael Kors: The original, luxury brand. Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and other retailers sell handbags from this line for approximately $1,000-$1,800 Canadian.
MICHAEL Michael Kors: This is a less expensive diffusion brand. Macy’s, Bloomingdales and others currently sell handbags from this line for approximately $250-$550 Canadian.
Kors by Michael Kors: This is another diffusion line of which Derek Lam, now a prestigious designer in his own right, was once creative director. Kors by Michael Kors is now defunct, but you’ll still find brand items in consignment stores, on ebay and on overstock websites. Prices were comparable to MICHAEL Michael Kors.
In addition, there is merchandise produced specifically for Michael Kors outlet stores (often know as the “factory” line).
Unlike the other diffusion lines, however, outlet merchandise is not transparent about its departure from the premium brands. Handbags and clothing appear to be heavily marked down from their original price; shoppers are led to believe they are scoring premium merchandise at an exceptional discount.
In truth, most inventory at a Michael Kors outlet store was manufactured specifically to be sold there. In most cases, the “sale” price is the only price the outlet handbag was ever intended to be sold at.
While this doesn’t necessarily mean the products are inferior or low-quality (and they’re certainly not inauthentic), it does mean customers are being manipulated.
You CAN score Michael Kors boutique grade handbags at greatly reduced prices in outlets if you know what to look for. Here’s five tips to find the real deals:
TIP 1: Look for the “honeycomb” logo on the lining. Boutique handbags feature a logo print on the lining known as the “honeycomb” print. It features the letters “MK” in circles with dotted lines connected the logos. In contrast, the lining of factory bags feature a repeat logo that spells out “Michael KORS” in full. This version is a two-lined logo with “Michael” in smaller letters on the top line and “KORS” in larger letters on the bottom.
TIP 2: Look for Post-Production Price Tag Reductions: Outlet bags are manufactured with two contrasting prices on the price tag. The price tag notes a “Retail Price” followed by “Our Price”. In contrast, a genuine markdown is suggested by price tags that have been modified post-production. Sometimes the original price is scratched out in pen with a new price written next to it; other times a sticker is placed over the original price to indicate mark downs.
TIP 3: Ask the sales reps. In my experience, the staff at designer outlet shops are informed and won’t try to deceive you if ask them about the origins of their products. A casual way to broach the subject is simply to ask if they have a section of merchandise that came from the boutiques. Outlet stores generally put the boutique items together, usually in the Clearance section, which brings me to my last tip…
TIP 4: Head to the “Clearance” section. A high proportion of merchandise in Michael Kors outlet’s clearance sections are discontinued or out-of-season products from the boutiques. This method of merchandising is common in other outlets as well, including Coach and Kate Spade.
While these tips will help you distinguish factory products from boutique inventory, it’s important to remember that what makes a handbag or garment the right piece for you isn’t tied to brand. If you find a factory piece that looks amazing on you, is good quality and fills a wardrobe gap, than its the right piece for you. Just don’t let misleading markdowns skew your judgement!
Want stylist feedback on an outlet piece? Try the Style Counsel app where a team of qualified stylists (including me) provide FREE fashion feedback.