This is a legacy post that has been given a facelift! Content is the same but may have been edited for clarity and readability.
In early April, my husband and I went to one of the outlet malls near us to do some minor clothing shopping. Having never been there and not wanting to waste time perusing stores that weren’t interesting to us, I printed a map beforehand, looked up the listing, and marked off the stores we wanted to check out. While I was going through the list, one caught my eye even though it was entirely off-base in terms of the purpose of our trip: The Cosmetics Company Outlet.
What Do they Sell?
A quick-and-dirty search revealed precious little other than The Cosmetics Company Outlet carries discounted MAC, Clinique, Estee Lauder, Bobbi Brown, and some others. As these brands are traditionally not available anywhere except brand counters, sites, and sometimes at select Ulta and Sephoras – I was immediately skeptical. Like what is this, some flea market-esque booth peddling otherwise semi-exclusive wares?
Are the cosmetics for sale within legitimate?
Even the photos were scarce – I found this one from an outlet mall’s site – it isn’t mine.
I did check a little further when I had some time and found some YouTube videos – there are a few hauls after-the-fact with girls raving about it, and there are a couple almost sneakily-shot, shaky-camera videos inside the store. The content sharers make it seem like what they’re doing is frowned upon, hence the need to be inconspicuous. It is suggested that discounts on these items are up to 30%, which is pretty good considering these brands are never on sale. Gift-with-purchase(s) galore, but never a straight up sale.
As it turns out, The Cosmetics Company Outlet is owned and operated by the Estee Lauder group – this was mentioned in a few other blogs and in videos, but I was able to confirm that in the store itself. I did not bring a camera with and didn’t want to whip out my phone to take photos and be a disruptive, jerk customer. Instead, I just browsed.
My Cosmetics Company Outlet stocks:
- Estee Lauder
- Bobbi Brown
- Bumble & Bumble
- and more.
Of those brands, it seemed like Clinique was what was in abundance – which is perfect, because that’s what I wanted to check out the most. Sure, I checked out the MAC – they had a few lipsticks (including Flamingo), some pretty blushes, a ton of shadow singles, some of winter’s pigment sets, etc. I made a beeline for Clinique’s skincare because I’ve been curious about the Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel (which I shared my review of last week!) for while but didn’t want to commit to a $26 bottle without trying it. On the shelf, I didn’t see any smaller sizes (but the standard size was $22.50, about 13.5% off). I approached the counter to ask.
Continuing, the associate working asked if she could help me find something. I explained that I was looking for a smaller size of the Dramatically Different Gel – as it turns out, there were at the end of the counter in an, “impulse,” arrangement. I selected one, it was $3 (score!). As she rung me out, she answered some questions another customer had about an Estee Lauder anti-aging skincare product, and how it compared to a similar line that brand has.
On the Staff
Before my visit, I had read a ton of overwhelmingly negative feedback regarding the employees. Lots of, “They watch you like a hawk,” and concerns of being treated like a criminal despite exhibiting normal shopping behavior. Lots of, “They’re rude, they yell at you for examining testers,” and even more, “there’s no service, they’re uneducated, so if you need help you’re basically screwed.” Given that, I was apprehensive.
Happily, for the duration, I was not:
- Made to feel uncomfortable or that my behavior was somehow suspect.
- Rushed or that I needed to make a decision or leave.
- Made to feel, “bad,” for examining products or testers.
I didn’t receive the same level of attention that you might at a counter, but it is also important to check your expectations. Remember: this is not a counter, that it is a clearance outlet shop that sells marked-down product that was either overstock, discontinued, etc. Really, the product is going to sell itself – they aren’t paying the employees to give you skincare consults or color-match your foundation…you should know what color(s) or product(s) you want/need. The employee I dealt with did seem to be familiar with the products, but it might be that she’s passionate about beauty products and therefore wants to help her fellow-fanciers. The other ugly behavior people might be seeing might be from people who see it as, “just a job.”
About the Vigilance
It’s also important to consider that places like this face a lot of shrink (that’s retail-speak for losses) via theft. Customers should not feel like criminals, but employees may be hyper vigilant for a reason (store policy, experiences, etc).
In short? Try not to take it too personally (unless you really feel targeted); they’re just doing their job.
Another thing you should know is that under no circumstances should you use a tester. They aren’t routinely sanitized like they are in Sephora. If you need one sanitized, you can ask for help but don’t just grab something and give it a go. Be smart.
The Bottom Line
While I did observe prices as low as 30% off retail, don’t expect that for everything. Like the moisturizer example above, some things aren’t that low; what I was looking for is definitely overstock, and is only about 13.5% off. A fair deal, but not enough for me for me to return only to buy that item (personally, I’d be spending more on fuel), or even to visit that store alone. Check out your local Cosmetics Company Outlet next time you’re near one. It’s worth a peek if you’re already there, but I wouldn’t make the trip for it.