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Be a savvy shopper

The main draw of outlet shopping is the promise of name brands at low prices, but customers need to be savvy when they hit these stores.

Merchandise at outlet stores comes from a variety of sources and isn't always leftover product from the brands' full-price operations.

Some stores, such as the Yankee Candle Outlet, stock a mix of merchandise, including end-of-season and clearance products, returned items from full-line stores, excess inventory from vendors and outlet-only products.

At Gap Outlet and Banana Republic Factory Store, all merchandise is designed, produced and manufactured specifically for those locations -- meaning the items were never offered at the chains' full-price stores.

Other outlets offer damaged or cosmetically flawed pieces, often called "seconds."

Other stores at outlet malls aren't even true outlet concepts.

And don't count on generous return policies, which are often limited or eliminated at outlets.

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