Outlet malls have been a big hit with bargain shoppers this millennium. Those following the industry say the up-and-down economy has resulted in leaner shoppers who demand a deal. The Tanger Family of Greensboro gets a lot of credit for developing the concept of brining up-scale retail merchandise to the suburbs, highways and by-ways. And yesterday – Tanger Outlets celebrated its 30th Anniversary at its retail outlets across the country.
The folks at Tanger wanted to make their 30th Anniversary memorable and one for the history books – or at least the Guinness Book of World Records.
Kathy Hackshaw: "Everybody have a desert? Countdown – five, four, three, two, one eat!"
That’s Kathy Hackshaw – manager of one of the newest Tanger Outlets – the one in Mebane – sitting squarely between the Triangle and the Triad. Hackshaw was helping to orchestrate what Tanger hopes will be the biggest desert party in the world. Thousands of people were expected to bite into cupcakes, brownies and cookies all at the same time – at all 34 Tanger Outlets across the country. Sarah McKenna is a senior at Elon University. She says the cupcake was good but she and her friends came out to the outlet mall because they really just had a taste for shopping.
Sarah McKenna: "I wanted to buy a dress for graduation and I had a 50-dollar gift card. I won it at the Dogwood Festival in Mebane. So, that was nice!"
It was nice because McKenna and her friends Tracy Schell (shell) and Rachel Zimmerman don’t like spending a lot of money – and are always looking for a deal.
McKenna: "Tracey and I like to shop at consignment shops. Second hand clothes, and Rosses, T-J Maxx! But I like the outlets a lot, it’s nice to feel like you’re getting a deal, I guess."
Outlet malls have come a long way from the days when their stores stocked out-of-style mis-fitted clothes and other items. Steven Tanger is president and C-E-O of Tanger Factory Outlet Centers headquartered in Greensboro.
Steven Tanger Video: "Welcome to Tanger where shopping is guilt free. Explore our website and plan your next shopping trip today. I have always admired people who are well-dressed."
Steven Tanger’s father – the late Stanley Tanger founded the company in 1981. Soon after, their first strip-mall brand name outlet center opened in Burlington. Today there are Tanger Outlets from New Hampshire to popular tourism destinations like Hilton Head. And then the Mebane site opened last fall – just in time for holiday shopping.
Steven Tanger: "Well in good times, people like a bargain. And in tough times like these, they need a bargain. This is the place where you can find brand name products sold directly to the consumer. We cut out the middle man."
Tanger says they introduced one of Polo’s first outlet stores and was selected to build Liz Claiborne’s first factory direct store. Brands like Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th, Brooks Brothers, Coach and Nike can all be found at their sites. And the company is still growing. Tanger signed a deal in March with a Canadian company to build 10 to 15 outlet centers in coming years.
Steven Tanger: "There is no secret, we run the company conservatively. We have a balance sheet that is a fortress. There are no mortgages emcumbering any of our assets. And any debt we have is a corporate level and it’s about 25-percent of our market value."
And Tanger does not build on speculation. It doesn’t even buy the land for a center unless 50-percent of the retail leases are signed. Anne Coughlan is a professor of Marketing at Northwestern University. She says outlet malls like Tanger and Premium Outlets are clearly a success story.
Anne Coughlan: "There is a durable value to this kind of a shopping experience. It occupies an interesting spot in the competitive spectrum. I am not surprised at all that outlet malls have survived for 30 years."
And Coughlan says there are several signs Tanger is beating the economy:
Coughlan: "They are benefiting, I think, from the slow but steady strengthening of the economy. So they report in their most recent financials, they are having very strong renewal rates by current tenants. Which means, I got a tenant a retailer in here, and I don’t have to find myself a new retailer, right?"
Recent numbers show this is the 10th consecutive month that retail shopping has increased across the country. And that’s good news for destination retail outlets like Tanger.