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What do we really think of outlet malls?

Posted by: John Ewoldt under Malls Updated: August 14, 2014 - 8:07 AM

Seems as if the most common comments people say to me about outlet malls are "Are the deals really that good?" and "Why shop there when I can go online?"

Those comments are usually said by people who don't shop outlet malls much. They don't realize that since 2006, more than 40 outlet malls have opened and only 1 full-priced mall. Much of the reason that new full-price malls aren't being built is the lackluster economy but also the Internet. More than $1 out of every $20 retail dollars is now spent on the Internet, according to the Census Bureau. But the reason that outlet malls and even Mall of America are less affected by the Internet is that they are shopping destinations. Take Orlando and Las Vegas, for example. Both are huge tourist draws and their outlet malls do extremely well, according to Mark Silvestri, COO at Simon Property Group, which co-owns Twin Cities Premium Outlets and centers in Vegas and Orlando. And Mall of America is a huge retail success aka "shopping destination" in our back yard.

Consumer Reports polled shoppers and asked their opnion of outlet malls. They found that 60 percent of shoppers are completely or very satisfied with the outlet shopping experience and believe that outlet malls offer exceptional value. Shoppers' most common complaint? Higher than expected prices.

I suspect there will be a little grumbling from shoppers visiting the high-end designer stores at TCPO in Eagan. But outlets haven't been a rock bottom source of deals for decades. The typical savings is 38% according to Linda Humphers at Value Retail News, which follows the outlet industry. The days of seconds and overstocks are gone. Now 85% of outlet store inventory is made specifically for the outlet. It's of slightly lower quality that the dept. store merchandise, thus the lower price, said Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at the NPD Group.

More to come later today as I blog after visiting the mall. Meanwhile check out my story in today's paper for more details.

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