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April 14th, 2010Outlet malls are in for shoppers

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by Doris Hajewski

Wisconsin Dells – On Tuesday after Easter, the Tanger Outlet center is a busy place in the waterpark capital of the world. Families consider the discounted stuffed animals at the Disney store, teens paw through the jeans at Hollister and seniors stroll arm-in-arm through the mall.

“We have five weeks of spring break,” said Heather Field Sweet, manager of the Tanger center. “This is the fifth week.”

Wisconsin Dells gets families from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and even Ohio during their respective spring break weeks, she said. While the recession is taking its toll on traditional regional malls and strip centers, outlet malls, particularly this one, are less scathed.

“We’re flourishing,” Field Sweet said. The 264,000-square-foot center has three empty storefronts, but all three have new tenants signed up – an amazing feat at a time when retail space is going begging in most places.

“A lot of consumers have heard about outlet malls. Now they’re trying to shop them,” said Linda Humphers, editor in chief of Value Retail News, a Florida-based publication of the International Council of Shopping Centers that focuses on outlet centers.

Wisconsin has four outlet centers. In addition to the one in the Dells, they are in Oshkosh, Johnson Creek and Pleasant Prairie.

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