Outlet Malls No Longer Relegated To The Middle Of Nowhere

Outlet malls used to be outposts far from major cities where shoppers and tourists could trek for a shopping adventure. As outlets of department stores and brands alike have become more popular with price-conscious shoppers, outlet malls have grown in popularity, and also slowly crept closer to population centers. There’s even an outlet mall within the city of New Orleans now.

Sure, people still shop at department stores and mall retailers for their clothing and accessories, but there’s no growth there. Where sales are increasing are what you picture when you hear the words “outlet mall,” and also the downmarket cousins of big-name department stores like Nordstrom and Saks. Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s are joining the downmarket department store party soon, too.

Yet Bloomberg Business reports that outlets are gradually moving closer to population centers, comparing the new Fashion Outlets of Chicago, which is near O’Hare airport and 15 miles from the city, with the venerable Woodbury Commons mega-outlet-plex which is an hour north of New York City. When a shopper’s travel time from population centers to an outlet is shorter, that means that the outlets are competing for the same shoppers.

They aren’t competing directly, though. Outlets and full-price stores rarely sell the same exact merchandise: the outlet business is booming to an extent that retailers design separate lines just for that market. They look more or less the same, but might have slightly less sturdy stitching or a lower grade of fabric.

Outlet Malls Move Closer to Cities in Upending of Rules [Bloomberg Business]