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Differences Between Coach Retail Bags and Coach Factory Outlet Bags

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Coach is a popular, affordable mid-range designer handbag brand. The Coach factory outlet store is a good place to pick up affordable Coach items to satisfy your shopping urges. Most of the bags in the outlet are factory outlet bags manufactured for the outlet store; the rest are regular Coach bags that are from last season or less popular designs. Would you like to know the difference? Keep reading and you will be a smarter Coach outlet shopper.

It's all about the price tag!

Recently, Coach has blurred the differences between Coach retail and outlet handbags. But, there is a sure way that you can tell the difference between retail and outlet bags. It's all in the price tag! When you are at the outlet mall, check the price tag. The outlet bag's price tag says "comparable value" while the retail bag price tag says "MSRP". Currently, this is the best way to tell the outlet bags from retail bags at the Coach outlet store. But, Coach is getting smarter by sometimes removing the retail price tag from the retail bags in the outlet. So, it's getting harder for customers to tell them apart. However, Coach outlet bag's price tag always has "comparable value" listed instead of "MSRP". Be aware, there are very few styles of the retail bags at the Coach outlet.


It's all about the quantity!

When a style has a lot of bags on display at the Coach outlet, you know that particular style is made for the outlet only. They have a large stock on display and also in the storage room. This is a very easy way to tell that style is made for outlet. Also, outlet bags are displayed at the entrance of the store while the few Coach retail bags (usually just one or two of each style) are displayed in a corner where customers wouldn't see it when passing by the Coach outlet store.


The packaging is different

A coach bag that is made for the outlet will certainly not have a dust bag. On the other hand, all retail bags designed for the Coach retail store will always have a dust bag. A few years ago, this is the sure way to tell the Coach outlet bags from the retail bags. Nowadays, this is not always the case. A Coach outlet bag will still not have a dust bag. The Coach retail bag that end up at the outlet sometimes might not have a dust bag. Your best bet is to always check the price tag.


What about the style number of the handbags?

The Coach retail bags used to start with pure numbers and the outlet bags started with a F and then followed by numbers. However, this is not the case anymore. You shouldn't use this to distinguish the retail vs. the outlet bags. Nowadays, the Coach retail bags also start with a letter and then followed by numbers. They are starting to blur the line between retail and outlet bags.

Other than style number, Coach bags are no longer all made in China. About ten years ago, all Coach bags are produced in China. Nowadays, with the surge of even cheaper Southeast Asian factories emerging in the fashion industry, Coach is now moving their production to poorer countries to save money on the production line. This is the reason why they can keep their prices reasonable and stay as an affordable luxury brand.

Why are there so few retail bags at the Coach outlets?

Traditionally, the outlet stores are there to sell the outdated styles from the retail stores. However, with the immense success of the outlet stores, many brands are unable to send that many styles to the outlet stores consistently. On the other hand, the outlet stores are good money making stores for all the brands. If you think about the retailers, who wants to consistently sell their products for a huge percent off? The outlets including Coach started to develop the made for outlet items. These merchandise are never met for the retail store. They are produced for the outlets to satisfy the customers' desire of a good deal. But are these made for outlet products produced the same as the retail products?

Of course not. They are the same brand but with subtle differences. The devil is in the details. The cost saving strategy is mainly in the zipper and leather quality for Coach. By using materials, outlet bags are made to look like their retail counterparts. These products carry a comparable value tag but in reality it's cheaper than the retail version. So, how to buy Coach retail bags at a discount?

Just shop at the Coach retail store and go when they have their major sales. Coach retail stores regularly (now twice a year) have discounts on lots of their handbags. This is the perfect opportunity to get retail Coach bags for less. This is also the reason why there are so few Coach retail bags at the outlets. They are mostly being sold at a smaller discount at the Coach retail store. For years now, Coach has done a great job at separating their retail vs. outlet bags.


Kelly Ann Christensen from Overland Park, Johnson County, Kansas on December 28, 2019:

Years ago I paid about $90 for Liz Claiborne purses and had a couple of them that I would switch back and forth from time to time. These looked good, where a classic style that remained popular for quite some time, wore well. Then, at some point she started making her bags a lot cheaper. So at some point after that I purchased a Coach bag and wallet. The wallet especially looked like absolute hell one month later. That was the end of my endeavors with Coach.

Jean Bakula from New Jersey on April 16, 2018:

You can also call a number you can Google and read the serial number to the person there, and they can tell you if it's a "real" Coach bag and not a knockoff.

jhanvi sharma from India on December 27, 2017:

Useful article

Niki Ross from USA on August 10, 2017:

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Nice post.

Suranne on July 24, 2016:

Well, I'm not sure if it's a Canadian factory store thing... But, I went to one today and none of these tips seemed to apply. The price tags all had the coach and horse on them. None of the bags had any serial numbers inside, the inner labels were printed with gold lettering and had no serial numbers at all. I'm stumped as to why. Anyone have any ideas? Thanks

Shannon on December 22, 2014:

I have been pretty lucky in finding Coach bags from the main store in the outlet locations. So far I have gotten two in the last year, and I love them.

Alyssa Jenkins educates Terra Nova children that need to turn into smart folks of the universe on November 30, 2013:


dsdssds on November 27, 2013:


fortheloveofpurses on September 24, 2013:

I bought 2 coach bags from an outlet for the first time this past weekend. I usually shop at a coach boutique and I also shop online. Although the prices are great at the outlet, I prefer the atmosphere of the coach boutique, the staff are calmer, more knowledgeable and you do not have 6 different people coming up to try to sell you on every purse you are looking at. The Coach Boutiques have superior customer service, including a Thank You card from the sales person. Even though I love my 2 bags, I would have been more satisfied to pay the exact same amount and just get 1 purse at the coach boutique.

Yards.moley on August 26, 2013:

Was just at the new factory outlet in halton hills Ontario. I had a little issue with the pricing of the fabric bags. Usually in store they are 298 but at the outlet they were marked as 328, hmmm.

Because of my previous purchases at the full priced coach I get a 25% off card pretty frequently. With all the lineups and lack of knowledgable staff. The 10 dollar difference is not worth the hassles of the "outlets"

Happy shopper on June 02, 2013:

I purchased a real coach bag, retail $385, for $148 at the coach outlet store. I guess it was my luck day.

Coco on May 30, 2013:

I looked at the Coach bags in Macys and they do not have the large selection that the outlet has, so I prefer the outlet for the variety and sales. A purse is a purse.

mmm on February 17, 2013:

Nice article- i also buy from both Coach and Coach Factory,it depends on the look of the purse and usually you can get a coupon code for the regular Coach website.

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