An outlet store or factory outlet is a retail store in which manufacturers sell their stock directly to the public through their own branded stores. The stores can be brick and mortar or online. Traditionally, a factory outlet was a store attached to a factory or warehouse. Often these stores are grouped together in outlet malls. The invention of the retail outlet store is often credited to Harold Alfond, founder of the Dexter Shoe Company.
“Professional” outlet store shoppers report variances in quality and price when comparing true factory stores with general outlet stores. The latter may have higher instances of manufacturers’ “overruns” and unmarked seconds and blemished merchandise. Factory stores usually mark any seconds and blemished merchandise as such, and tend to offer newer models.
Since its origination, outlets have seen variation in project size and an industry reorganization in the early 1990s which resulted in many smaller outlets going dark. As newer outlets continue their popularity, clear differences between new well designed centers and traditional retail centers are becoming harder and harder to differentiate.