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What Are Factory Seconds?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 17, 2024
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Factory seconds refer to products that did not meet a final quality inspection standard by the manufacturer. Everything from clothing to furniture to flooring can be marked as factory seconds, and often sold at factory outlets or other discount stores for a significantly lower prices. This is often for nothing more than a minor cosmetic blemish, not any type of structural flaw. Sometimes even a simple over-production of an item may lead to an overstock of merchandise, and the manufacturer will sell this overstock at a significantly reduced price as well, even though these items do not have any flaws. Shopping for seconds can be a great way to save money, though care should be taken to evaluate any flaws.

Various types of clothing are some of the most common options for factory seconds. A misplaced or slightly irregular stitch, for example, can make it impossible for the manufacturer to sell the clothing in a department store for full price, and will send it to a discount store. Often, these flaws are not even noticeable by the person purchasing it, for a fraction of what it would cost at the original price. These items are brand new and have not been used, unlike those found at thrift stores.

Furniture, from couches and tables to mattresses, are also frequently sold as factory seconds. Mattresses are another option. The pieces of furniture may simply have a small dent or scratch, but are structurally sound. Generally companies will not sell items with structural flaws even as factory seconds; it is only cosmetic issues that will allow a product to be sold this way. In rare cases, even electronic items may be sold as seconds, but these are more difficult to find because they are initially much more expensive to produce.

There are some things to keep in mind when shopping for factory seconds. It is important to expect each item being purchased and make sure that the flaws are small, not very noticeable, and do not affect the function of the item. Warranties are also important to keep in mind; generally, factory seconds are not offered with any sort of warranty, so while it may be less expensive to purchase the item up front, it may be more expensive in the end if it breaks shortly, or is later determined to be unacceptable. Otherwise, shopping at factory outlets and discount stores that sell seconds can be a great way to find good deals and save a great deal of money on otherwise expensive purchases.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By mobilian33 — On Aug 03, 2014

@Laotionne is right about the counterfeit clothing and jewelry. I was at a flee market recently and there were a couple vendors who were selling counterfeit shirts and shorts and the police came right into the building where they were set up and arrested them.

The vendors were taken away in handcuffs and all of their merchandise was loaded into vans. However, there are plenty of vendors who do sell legitimate factory seconds at flee markets.

By Laotionne — On Aug 03, 2014

@Feryll - The stuff you see being sold out of cars and on street corners probably didn't come factories as seconds. There is a big black market for fake merchandise and that's what many of these guys are peddling.

There is a store I know of where the owner and his wife buy cheap polo shirts and then stitch in the labels of famous designers and popular brands. They sell the shirts as if they are the real things. I'm sure some of the people who buy them know what they are getting, but other people actually believe they have bought an expensive shirt at a great price.

By Feryll — On Aug 02, 2014

I see guys selling items, mostly clothes and jewelry, out of their cars, on the streets and at flee markets all the time. The items in many cases are popular brand names, but they are being sold at half price and less. Do these guys get the items from the factories at a discounted price and then sell them?

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