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Would an Outlet Mall Work in Buffalo?

Tourist destinations such as Niagara Falls always manage to attract outlet malls. Recently Macerich (owners, operators and developers of major retail properties) in announced that it would be expanding its offerings at the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls USA by increasing is footprint by 175,000 square feet. The additional square footage allows Macerich to add another 50 tenants to its roster in the Town of Niagara, with more announcements to come as the remaining 33 percent of  new space is leased. The growth spurt will also add 500 new jobs to the mix.

New tenants include: American Eagle, Aerie, Asics, Auntie Anne’s, Brooks Brothers, Clarks, Crocs, Destination Maternity, Disney, Forever 21, Gold Toe, Helly Hansen, IT’SUGAR, Janie & Jack, Kenneth Cole, Merrell, NY & Co, Perfumania, Perry Ellis, Puma, Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th Outlet, Spencer’s Gifts, Steve Madden, Swarovski, Talbot’s, The Body Shop, The Limited, and White House Black Market

For years people have asked what it would take to jumpstart retail in Downtown Buffalo. Often times we have heard the suggestion of incorporating outlet stores into the growth formula, in order to compete with the malls in the region. With the addition of 50 stores, the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls USA will become one of the largest outlet malls in the country (700,000 square feet of top designer brands, with 200 top retail names). Other brand names at the outlet mall include  Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th Outlet, Barneys New York, Burberry, J.Crew, Juicy Couture, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, Nike Factory Store and UnderArmour, along with the food chains that comprise the food court.

“Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls USA is a major destination for shoppers in New York and eastern Canada, as well as visitors from around the world,” said Randy Brant, Executive Vice President – Real Estate, Macerich. “Our current expansion and enhanced retail lineup solidify the dominance of this outlet property in the Upstate New York/Toronto region. Exceptional outlet properties are a significant avenue of growth for Macerich, as well as for our retail partners, and we are very pleased to create new opportunities for top brands to become part of Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls.”

With the advent of Canalside, and the recent successes that we are seeing with the watering of the new canals, I’m wondering if the ECHDC (or Benderson that still has the rights to a vacant parcel south of One Canalside), or anyone else has looked at what it would take to attract a range of outlet shops.

I spoke to local fashion consultant Lauren Larsen who agreed that the outlet stores would be a good fit for Buffalo. She also pointed out that outlet malls are not only found at tourist destinations, they are also located in high profile places such as along major roadways that connect urban areas.

“Outlet mall are great places to get discounts on designer clothing,” said Lauren. “Malls like Galleria and Boulevard are entrenched in Western New York. They are hard to compete with. The idea of the outlet mall is to find good deals on name brands. Many times Canadians go to the Niagara Falls Outlet Mall first, even before the other malls. If there’s a good deal to be had, then people will search it out. Sometimes it’s the thrill of the hunt, while knowing that you’re saving a few bucks at the same time. Personally, I can’t stand driving to Niagara Falls. I rarely go. And for a long time it was really depressing. Today it’s a bit of a different story – they appear to be doing a much better job these days, with better stores to choose from. Some of the stores are not exactly cheap, but there’s always a discount. Sometimes you can find clothing that’s only  a month behind being current. There are also brands that you can’t find at the mainstream malls. I would love to see a mall of this sort come to the waterfront – a place where you could meet your friends for food and a drink, and then go shopping at destination businesses.”

When I was younger, my family would always stop at a couple of Outlet Malls on the way to vacationing at Lake George, NY. I always remember that the excursion was considered an integral part of the vacation. It wasn’t so much the deals that attracted the family unit, it was more of the diversity of hard-to-find businesses that made the trek worth while.

Seeing the success in Niagara Falls makes me wonder if there is possibly a way that Buffalo could tap into outlet mall formula. With an outlet mall near Hamilton Ontario, a new one outside Niagara on the Lake, and one in Niagara Falls, Buffalo could be well-positioned to have one too – especially since outlet malls usually feature different offerings in order to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Maybe Buffalo could even consult with Macerich to make it happen?

Image: Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls USA – Facebook

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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