Toronto bargain hunters and visitors to Niagara will soon have a new reason beyond the drop in value of the dollar to shop in Canada. The Outlet Collection at Niagara, located beside the QEW, less than 20 kilometres from the U.S. border, is slated to open May 15, featuring 102 retailers including some Canadian firsts.
The new mall is the latest in a trend that sees new or expanded centres out to wow discount and outlet shoppers in the region. For years, these active shoppers have had few options when it came to scoring luxury labels at low prices. The Ivanhoé Cambridge project in Niagara-on-the-Lake will house the first Pandora outlet in Canada and the first White House Black Market outlet. It will be anchored by the first Bass Pro Shops Outpost, which will open later in 2014. Other big-name tenants include Marshalls, Coach and Tim Hortons, and there will be a spot for a farmers’ market the first and third Friday of every month from August to October.
At 520,000 square feet, it is about half the size of Ivanhoé Cambridge’s hybrid discount venture, Vaughan Mills, which houses both regular and discount retailers. Vaughan Mills had a bit of a slow start when it opened in 2004, said David Baffa, a senior vice-president at Ivanhoé Cambridge. Since then the mall has doubled in sales productivity and is currently sitting at $660 in sales per square foot. Another 150,000 square feet of retail space is being added for the fall of 2014. The launch of Toronto Premium Outlets in Halton Hills last summer is what really got the ball rolling on outlet shopping in the region, according to John Crombie, senior managing director of retail services at Cushman & Wakefield in Canada. Toronto Premium Outlets is a 50-50 joint venture between U.S.-based Simon Property Group and Calloway, one of Canada’s largest real estate investment trusts.
“Prior to that, outlet malls in Canada were viewed by most Canadians as discount malls, nothing really special to go to. Outlet just meant cheap,” said Crombie. Toronto Premium Outlets upped the ante with a simple and elegant design and the promised of outlet labels new to Canada. Outlet shopping is also growing north of the city, where construction is underway at the former Cookstown Outlet Mall to nearly double its size. RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust and U.S. mall owner Tanger Outlet Centers Inc. entered into a 50-50 partnership to buy the Cookstown mall in December, 2011. Located in Innisfil, about 70 kilometres north of Toronto and 20 kilometres south of Barrie, the existing site is 162,000 square feet. The expansion will add another 159,000 square feet in time for the holiday season, according to Kayleigh Horvath, a spokeswoman for Tanger. Unlike Toronto Premium Outlets and the Outlet Collection at Niagara, the Tanger Outlets in Cookstown will be enclosed.
Crombie said that outlet malls, to succeed, must have enough interesting retailers — and parking — to be worth driving to. They must also be far enough away from their own full-price retail stores that they don’t cannibalize their sales. “The format is very affordable. Sales generally in outlet malls are really strong. It’s a win-win for most retailers,” said Crombie.
“People will go the distance to shop those malls because of the perception that they are getting good deals, and they are getting a luxury product at discount prices.” But shoppers aren’t always getting the same products sold at traditional malls. While some products are overstock items or items that are a few weeks or a few seasons old, some are manufactured by retailers specifically for sale in outlet malls. Some outlet retailers also sell products with slight imperfections or merchandise that has been returned and repackaged. Most sales staff can answer questions about merchandise sources.
GTA area outlet malls
- Vaughan Mills: Daily shuttles from Union Station.
- Toronto Premium Outlets: Halton Hills, many new brands.
- Tanger Outlets: Small, fully enclosed, 20 kilometres south of Barrie.
- Outlet Collection at Niagara: Opens May 15. Canadian firsts.