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by Marc Weisblott

Premium outlet malls have long lured bargain-hunting shoppers across the border, particularly during periods when the dollar has been around par, which has probably contributed to recent plans by two Canadian developers to start building their own.

The race to be the first in the country has started in Halton Hills, a fast-growing community west of Toronto, where companies RioCan and Calloway have announced plans for complexes highlighted by discount stores dedicated to designer brands.

Names dropped in a report from The Globe and Mail included Saks, Nieman Marcus and Barneys, all represented by Greensboro, N.C.-based Tanger Outlet Centers, which has signed a deal with RioCan. Calloway is now in talks with a major U.S. factory outlet player.

The anticipation of similar outlet malls across the country might tantalize cost-conscious shoppers, while keeping their dollars north of the border, but the complexes are also likely to further diminish the status of mid-sized malls across the country.

Most of the largest Canadian shopping centres announced renovations or expansions on the rebound of the economic downturn, including the West Edmonton Mall, Toronto Eaton Centre, Pacific Centre in Vancouver and Chinook Centre in Calgary.

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