The days of driving hours to an outlet mall could soon be a thing of the past for many Americans, as they can now shop at many off-price stores from the comfort of their living room.
More and more major outlet stores are going online—and it could create new headwinds for the nation's biggest department and discount stores just in time for the holidays.
Saks Fifth Avenue is the latest luxury retailer to take its outlet online. It launched Saksoff5th.com this fall, joining Nordstrom Rack, Neiman Marcus Last Call and even TJ Maxx and Century 21, both of which advertise designer merchandise at low prices online.
"We didn't want to miss another holiday season," said Robert Wallstrom, president of Off Fifth at Saks Fifth Avenue, which launched the site in just six months.
"What we are seeing from customers is that everyone wants a deal," he said. "When the economy is good, they want one, and when the economy is challenged, they need one. The customer at Off Fifth wants great merchandise, but they also want a great deal."
Off Fifth buys most of its apparel and accessories directly from vendors that are on trend for the season.
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Backed with the Saks brand, which implies luxury, the site is shaping up to be another go-to place for shoppers looking for better value. That could come at a cost to retailers such as Macy's, J.C. Penney and Kohl's.
The outlets of high-end retailers appear to be wooing consumers away from traditional department stores. Wallstrom said that is where he's seeing the No. 1 crossover.