I found this great article through consumerist.com on how outlet shopping is a bit of a scam.
The article found here, discusses how outlet malls differ from regular malls.
One issue the article identifies is the sunk cost idea that once you have invested the gas, time etc to trek out the large distances to these outlet malls, that you feel compelled to buy things. I definitely think this happened to me once before college, when shopping for a major climate change.
Second, it points out that often the outlet stores actually sell inferior products from the same brand name. This is like how different brands slap their logo on items which are not as well built as their normal line or higher end lines of merchandise.
Finally, the last thing that I found to be really true is that the notion of Suggested Retail Price is a total fiction. Although I am fairly price sensitive I keep lists complete with non sale retail prices on most significant items I purchase. Currently significant is anything over 50 bucks.
So with a normal retailer or an online retailer I can sniff out the best deal. I find its important to be cognizant of whether or not you will pay for shipping and or sales tax. Many great retailers like REI, allow you to ship to a store for free. I must say with REI I have been extremely satisfied with the experience.