Research by TV station RBB has shown that some outlet centers deliberately sell lower-quality clothing. The German textile retail trade sees this as a consumer deception.

It is a profitable business for many brands. In so-called factory outlet centers they sell their goods at a reasonable price. According to the TV station Rundfunk Berlin Brandenburg RBB, many fashion brands today achieved notable increases in turnover and corresponding margins only via the outlet sales channel. Germany is Europe’s largest and most powerful market in terms of purchasing power with around 15 outlets and a total area of around 235,000 square meters.

The leading operator of such factory outlets is the McArthurGlen Group with 23 locations in Europe. In the Berlin shopping center operated by the company, RBB researched the quality of the products sold there. The broadcaster’s conclusion: “The clothing offered in outlet centers is obviously of inferior quality than promised by the manufacturers”. There were conspicuous features, “which testify to poorer workmanship and cheaper materials”. This ranged from inferior seams to coarser fabrics and cheaper buttons.

Textile trade association suspects specially pre-produced goods in outlets

This would contradict the image that many consumers have of outlet centers. They expect the same premium fashion there as in other shops, only as remnants at a lower price. The Bundesverband des Deutschen Textileinzelhandels (BTE) doubts that outlet centres are predominantly filled with leftover items and B-goods. Association spokesman Axel Augustin: “If the shops look like in the city centre, with the full range, all colours and sizes – then the goods must actually have been pre-produced”.

The BTE is against this practice. “The trade associations Textil (BTE), Schuhe (BDSE) and Lederwaren (BLE) see these practices as an unacceptable deception of consumers with regard to the quality and price of the products on offer. In addition, such an approach leads to a legally questionable distortion of competition between FOC and, for example, specialist shops and department stores, since the consumer often wrongly perceives the goods in these stores as identical,” according to a joint statement by the associations.

Practice often contradicts terms of use

To make matters worse, the sale of goods produced specifically for the outlet often seems to contradict the conditions of use. According to information from the trade associations, according to most rental agreements in outlets only old and B-goods as well as residual items may be sold. BTE, BDSE and BLE have therefore contacted 15 local authorities with factory outlet centres and asked for information. Specifically, the associations demand that all building and operating permits as well as rental agreements in factory outlet centers should only permit the sale of old or B-goods as well as residual items. In addition, they are in favor of a ban on the sale of goods that were produced specifically for the center. Local authorities and outlet operators should have compliance with these requirements checked at least once a year. In the event of violations, the associations propose fines that should benefit the city.


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Link: Rundfunk Berlin Brandenburg has checked the quality of clothing offered in outlets.

Image: McArthurGlen