The Woodburn Company Stores outlet mall plans an additional 38,000 square feet. // Photo by Teresa Meier
Retail outlet centers in the state continue to grow after strong sales numbers during the recession caught the attention of regional and national retailers.
The Woodburn Company Stores outlet mall saw record sales numbers in the past two years, with a 21% increase in sales from 2008 to 2009. Last December, the outlet mall saw its highest-ever aggregate sales in its 12-year history, according to general manager Teri Sunderland. She says the mall plans an additional 38,000 square feet of floor space to be occupied by 2012.
In the past six months, the Bend Factory Stores outlet center has been approached by a number of retailers interested in setting up shop; the center is at 75% capacity. “Our foot traffic has been reduced, but sales have stayed the same,” says general manager Sherry Short. “We’re looking for who will be the best fit.”
The health of Oregon’s retail outlets largely has been tied to their location right off highways. And, retail outlets fulfill a niche in a retailer’s distribution chain. “Outlets have always done well in an economic downturn,” says Linda Humphers, editor of Value Retail News, an industry trade publication. “A modern vertical retailer or manufacturer needs an outlet, an Internet and a full-price channel. That’s how they manage production. Clearly there are always going to be outlet centers.”
Nationally, there are 40 outlet centers planned for construction in the next two years, roughly a 22% increase over 2010 national numbers.
Of Oregon’s four other retail outlet centers, only Tanger Outlet Center in Lincoln City was available for comment. Tanger manager Diane Kusz says her mall is at 98% capacity, showing that people want good prices even in better times.
“Once the public has been educated that it can get a good deal, it’s hard to go back,” Kusz says.
Though the recession is technically over, shoppers still avidly seek out deals. “People need to cut back but don’t want to shop at Wal-Mart. Department stores are starting to wean people off of sales,” says Humphers. “They want the brands they trust.”