There was no time for ceremony at the opening of the Twin Cities Premium Outlets on Thursday.
“My staff told me to keep it short so they had more time to shop,” Gov. Mark Dayton, a scion of Minnesota’s most famous retail family, said at the start of a speech he finished in four minutes.
Located at the intersection of Hwys. 77 and 13, Twin Cities Premium Outlets is now the closest outlet mall to the Twin Cities core, about 16 miles from downtown Minneapolis and 15 miles from downtown St. Paul. It is just 4.3 miles south of the Mall of America, the largest shopping center in the nation.
Even before its 10 a.m. opening, large crowds filled the walkways of the oval mall, which is designed like a racetrack to create a shorter distance among its 100 stores.
Friends J’ Nai Buchanan of St. Louis Park, Jana Miller of Bloomington and Alana Lea of Shakopee all took the day off work to arrive at 9 a.m.
“I love the setup. You don’t have to walk across the road to get to all the stores,” said Lea, which she said was a difference from Albertville Premium Outlets at the opposite end of the Twin Cities metro region.
Buchanan said she liked the classy look of the food court, which has a fireplace and five restaurants. “We’ll definitely be back,” said Miller, toting several shopping bags.
Mall employees said the pace was brisk but not overwhelming.
After several hours at the center, shoppers Megan Kleve and Libby Schuett of Blaine said they purchased less than planned. “The lines to check out are too long at some stores,” Kleve said. “We’ll come back after grand opening.”
An hour after the mall opened, parking was hard to find but the roads and highways around it were flowing freely. Hundreds of people remained lined up outside stores like Coach, which limits the number of people allowed in at once. By lunchtime, lots were full but traffic tie-ups were limited to the parking lots, not the feeder highways.
Dayton, whose family started the Dayton’s department store company that later morphed into Target, took note of the change in the retail landscape. His ancestors fought to keep outlets and discounters away from its full-priced, full-service stores.
“Back then, ‘Dayton’s won’t be undersold’ meant that outlet malls couldn’t locate across the street,” the governor said. “Now it’s different. Shoppers think it’s great that the outlet malls are closer. It’s a winner for everyone.”
The outlet center’s proximity to the Mall of America raised the prospect that it will draw some of the big mall’s visitors. Tourism promoters and hotel owners nearby the malls are promoting jointly, but the centers themselves are keeping up a competitive front.
Asked if the new mall might share a shuttle service with Mall of America, Mark Silvestri, chief operating officer of Simon Property Group, co-owner of the Twin Cities Premium Outlets, said, “No, I don’t think we’re going to go that far.”
Ryan Slaughter, a college student from Northfield, said he placed the outlet mall’s opening day on his calendar weeks ago and rearranged his work schedule for it. He shopped at J. Crew, Nike and Oakley stores. At J. Crew, he said, “I was surprised I could still use my 15 percent college discount.”
The city of Eagan a decade ago began clearing businesses and a dowdy strip mall out of the area at the highway intersection with a plan to redevelop the area. A new mall wasn’t part of the plan, let alone one designed for outlets normally found farther away from urban areas.
But retail developers in tourist cities like Orlando and Las Vegas have been successful placing outlet centers near full-line malls in recent years, creating shopping destinations that attract people from greater distances and hold them in such centers longer.
Simon, based in Indianapolis, announced the project in late 2012 after months of preparatory work. The company partnered with Paragon Outlet Partners, a Baltimore-based developer, on the Eagan mall. The mall opened with 100 stores. The Limited, Steve Madden and Robert Graham will open soon.
Simon also owns the Southdale, Maplewood Mall and Albertville Premium Outlets in Albertville, about 15 miles northwest of Maple Grove and about 32 miles from downtown Minneapolis. “The success in Albertville is the reason we were interested in Eagan,” Silvestri said.