More room for outlets

The Seattle Premium Outlets stores on the Tulalip Reservation have been so successful that the ownership group plans a major expansion next year.

Simon Property Group will add 100,000 additional square feet of retail space to the outlet center in 2012 and will start construction on a parking structure this year to replace parking that will be consumed for the expansion.

The center is one of the company’s most productive, said Michele Rothstein, a spokeswoman for the Premium Outlets division of Simon.

She said sales there are $700 a square foot, which she described as “world-class numbers.”

The existing center has 120 stores and 400,000 square feet of retail space.

Rothstein said it’s too early to determine how many new stores will be added in the expansion and what they will be.

“At this stage, the nitty-gritty details aren’t ready for release yet,” she said. “But we wanted to get the word out to the retail community. We have merchants waiting to get in and stores within the complex with the potential to grow.”

Rothstein said the center has been successful because of a strong local shopper base, customers from the Seattle region, and a lot of visitors from British Columbia.

“The Canadians love the center,” she said. “They love to shop. It has truly resonated from the beginning with all these customer bases.”

She said studies show that adding more stores will encourage shoppers to come from longer distances. She also that said plans to build a new Cabela’s store near the outlet center will also draw more customers.

“It’s all good,” she said. “It will create more of a destination for the area and attract people to shop and dine. There’s so much to do there now. Adding the hotel was wonderful and Cabela’s will be terrific. It’s nice to be part of this momentum going on.”

That also attracts more stores, she said.

“Merchants like to go where there’s a track record of success,” she said.

Existing stores at the center include Adidas, Ann Taylor, Burberry, Calvin Klein, Coach, Cole Haan, Nike and Tommy Hilfiger.

Shoppers Keri Johnson and her daughter, Meagan, 14, were glad to hear of the expansion as they searched for several items at the Seattle Premium Outlets on Thursday afternoon.

“My daughter is looking for sunglasses and she has a gift card for Aeropostale,” Johnson said, adding she’s interested in more shopping opportunities.

Ann Hamilton, 65, and three of her friends from Pierce County sat outside the food court, enjoying the sun and some iced drinks.

“We’ve been to Chico’s, Banana Republic and Starbucks,” she said. “That’s as far as we’ve gotten.”

Hamilton, of University Place, and her group of friends had no trouble coming up with new stores they’d like to see. Marshalls, Crate and Barrel, The Container Store, Bed Bath & Beyond, Williams-Sonoma, and “a good stationary store” were some of their ideas.

Randy Wright, 67, of British Columbia, sat outside Restoration Hardware on a bench as his wife shopped. He wasn’t sure whether he’d be interested in new stores. “I know my wife would,” he said, adding, “The benches are good.”

Simon’s announcement also included expansion plans for three other properties — outlet malls in Cabazon, Calif.; Orlando, Fla.; and Aurora, Ill., near Chicago.

Rothstein said interest in outlet centers is growing across the country, both from the retailer’s and from the shopper’s perspectives.

“Shoppers are looking for great deals and the outlets are a good place to go without sacrificing quality,” she said.

Apparel sales at factory outlets rose 17.8 percent for the 12 months that ended in April, according to estimates by market research firm NPD Group. Meanwhile, apparel sales industrywide rose a meager 1.4 percent.

“What outlets have been able to do is touch the core of the American consumer,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD. “There’s no question that what we’re witnessing is the transformation of how and where consumers are shopping. The recession really kicked it into high gear for outlet centers.”

Rothstein added that for many, outlets are the first connection with a designer label.

“Maybe the next time they will shop at the (designer) department store or go to a boutique,” Rothstein said.

The Los Angeles Times contributed to this article.

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