When you love the Coach brand, but can't afford designer prices, Coach outlet stores can be a great resource. Like many designers, Coach has outlet stores located nationwide, with prices that can make quality handbag fashions more affordable to the common consumer.
Finding an Outlet
Because of the predominance of non-authentic goods ("knockoffs"), the safest method of purchasing Coach products at a discounted price is to purchase them directly from Coach factory outlet stores. Locating your nearest store can be done by visiting the Coach website store locator (you can narrow the search to outlets) or by visiting an outlet location website such as Outlet Bound. There are over 225 Coach outlet locations.
Why are the outlet stores so popular? Coach does not permit its retail stores and online products to be deeply discounted. This leaves bargain hunters with the option of driving to the nearest factory outlet.
When you purchase a bag from an outlet, you'll typically pay 30 to 60 percent less than you would at a standard retailer.
The items sold in outlets are not always of the same caliber as those sold in the upscale retail stores. The goods may be last season's styles or have minor irregularities. Coach also intentionally manufactures products specifically for its outlets, leaving the latest trends and styles for the retail locations.
This clever marketing ploy allows trend-conscious Coach fans to maintain their elitism, whereas bargain shoppers seeking quality goods can purchase the name without spending full price on cutting-edge styles. Your choices will be limited at Coach outlet stores, which means you should check back frequently to see whether that popular barrel bag or red wallet has been added to the outlet line. Here are some tips for checking out the merchandise at a Coach outlet store:
Outlet stores may or may not have additional stock on hand. If you find a bag you like, then hold onto while you shop (or ask a salesperson to put it aside for you.) This way, you'll avoid watching your great deal head out the door with another customer.
If you are interested in a certain shape, size or style of handbag, call the outlet before you arrive. The sales associates may be able to let you know if what you're looking for is in store, or if you'll be making the trip for no reason.
Look at the Labels
Each bag has a "creed" or imprinted leather label inside. This has information about Coach products but also contains a serial number.
- If the serial number has two sets of numbers, with an "F" at the beginning of the second set, then the bag was made specifically for the factory stores.
- If the creed label has a stamped, round mark with a circle at the center, then the bag was made for a full price store but is now being sold in the outlet. (Look carefully: the mark can be very light, and may be found in different places on the label.)
- Small items (wallets, card cases, etc.) may have a narrow label with "Made in..." and the source. If the label has a dot on it as well, then the piece was made specifically for the factory store.
Returns and Exchanges
If you need to return an item, keep the receipt and do not remove the tags: returned items must be in unused condition. Coach outlet stores allow you to return or exchange the bag within 30 days.
Check Prices Carefully
Outlet stores can - and do - list their bags for more than the original retail price and then advertise the outlet price as a deep discount. Do your homework online before shopping: check out prices at the retail stores so you can check them against the prices at outlet stores.
If you are looking for the latest items offered in Coach catalogs, or for a specific color and finish, it's best to head directly to your nearest Coach retailer.
Coach Outlet Website
Stores vary in the items they stock, so it's no surprise that the Coach outlet website offers only general information to buyers (you can't buy products through the outlet website.) It can be a valuable resource to shoppers, however. At the outlet website, you can:
- Locate outlet stores by their zip code and get contact information. You can call stores ahead of time to check on product availability.
- Discover current sales and discounts at nearby outlet stores or plan your vacation to include a quick Coach outlet stop.
- Register for Coach emails, and receive notice of upcoming events, sales, and other special discounts.
- See and print out handy shopping guides for the latest items in stores.
While many websites advertise Coach coupons, there are few legitimate ones available online. Your best bet for getting additional coupon savings at an outlet is to register your email at the Coach outlet website.
Some outlet centers, such as Tanger, also offer coupon books which can be purchased to help you save on the center's brands. Coupon books are also offered free in some cases, such as for students and military personnel.
When Browsing at an Outlet Store
When browsing the outlet, make the most of your shopping experience.
- Don't be afraid to dig. While many of the newer styles will line the walls of the outlet, the clearance bins may be the best places to find some good bargains. Check the perimeter of the shop for what's new, then dive in for last seasons' best deals.
- Always check for irregularities, damage, and quality. Irregular items are sometimes deeply discounted, and they should be marked or flagged by the store. Repairs for Coach handbags can be costly, and you may never be able to duplicate a missing piece or leather color.
- Be sure to inspect the bags for signs of over-handling. Many purses in the outlets are kept in bins; they may have scuff marks, loose threads or sticky handles. Be sure to point out any signs of wear to an associate before you buy and ask for an additional discount.
Use Caution With Online Outlets
Unfortunately, high fashion designer goods have been copied over and over again, and due to these ubiquitous replicas, it is difficult to trust many online outlets. Consumers seek out sites like Overstock.com to bid for "authentic Coach handbags", and although the site does not allow the sale of replica merchandise (according to the site policy), it takes no measures against the sale and purchase of false merchandise.
There are also many other websites that advertise themselves as outlets for Coach merchandise, but these are typically auction-style sales by secondhand retailers. Buyers have no guarantees regarding the products they buy online and sometimes, it's nearly impossible to return the merchandise. Buying "Coach" bags online through auctions or on the street at markets can result in buying a fake, which is an expensive mistake. Check out this photo list for some hints on what to avoid.
If you are interested in purchasing goods from these sellers, visit an authentication site such as My Poupette first. These sites recommend auctions that sell authentic goods and point out counterfeit sellers you need to avoid. Purse forums and blogs are other great resources to find out which online outlet sellers others have purchased from that sell authentic Coach goods. Even if you don't get the exact item or even the top-of-the-line item at a Coach outlet store, it is still from Coach.
Don't Sacrifice for Style
If you are a savvy shopper who does research, you can purchase great Coach bags and make your wallet happy at the same time. Do your Coach shopping at a factory outlet and save more than you bargained for.