Outlet malls seldom lease space to brands known only by a few shoppers. But Albertville Premium Outlets is taking a chance on one of Europe’s top sportswear brands that has virtually no other presence in the United States.
The mall has had trouble keeping retailers in its less-trafficked Promenade annex built across the street from the main center. Clarks and Lululemon recently moved from the annex to the main center. Local retailers such as KLN Family Brands and Wicked Cheap have closed.
But optimism is high for a new retailer called the Peak, which is offering Luhta, a Finnish sportswear maker.
“We’re the only place in the nation that sells the full collection of Luhta premium outerwear,” said Tom Crassweller, co-owner of the Peak. “It is one of the top selling outerwear brands in Europe and the best seller in Scandinavian countries.”
Similar to North Face and Under Armour, the brand includes activewear in the $30 to $80 range, sportier casual wear from subsidiary IcePeak running from $35 to $180 and outerwear that goes from $100 to $280.
“This is a test store to be followed by additional U.S. stores in late 2016 or 2017,” Crassweller said.
Luhta and its edgier, sportier brand IcePeak are known for warmth and breathability but also good fits with tucked-in waists and fuller hip sizing for women.
Taller men and women appreciate the longer sleeves, Crassweller said.
The brand, founded in 1907, has been looking to break into the U.S. market again after a brief entry about 15 years ago. “They’re coming here now because of the strong dollar,” Crassweller said.
He chose Albertville’s Promenade because of its concentration of specialty stores such as Flying Circus Toys, Pebble Boutique and Trendsetters, rather than big box stores.
Albertville Premium Outlets, which opened in 2000, added several new stores in the past year, including Kate Spade New York, North Face, Direct Tools and the Peak.
Lululemon Athletica, Clarks, Cosmetic Company and Kitchen Collection have moved within the center. Five Guys Burgers and Fries will open in August. A temporary My Pillow kiosk is open through Labor Day.
At the Promenade, Ecko, Book Warehouse, Aerosoles and Le Creuset have closed.
The area’s other outlet mall, Twin Cities Premium Outlets in Eagan, opened in 2015 and has been almost 100 percent leased since opening.
One new store, Guess, opened in May. Le Creuset opened last year. Mode and Gold Toe have closed and Go Calendars moved to a new location.
“Our traffic and sales are trending up,” said general manager Peter Lund.
Both of the Twin Cities outlet malls are run by Simon Property Group.