Monday, February 28, 2011

Las Vegas Outlet goes Premium.


A major local outlet mall is receiving a high-end makeover.

Simon Property Group is refashioning its Las Vegas Outlet Center, at 7400 Las Vegas Blvd. South, into an upscale shopping destination similar to the Las Vegas Premium Outlets center it owns downtown. The company is even renaming both properties to reflect the changes, anointing them Las Vegas Premium Outlets-South and Las Vegas Premium Outlets-North. The expansion of the southern center is scheduled to open for business on March 17, after nine months of construction.

"We are pleased to be expanding Las Vegas Premium Outlets-South not only to fulfill merchant demand for space, but also to satisfy shoppers' desire to have an even greater selection of brands at impressive savings," said Alexandra Goranson, area marketing director for Simon's Premium Outlets portfolio, in a statement. "We are thrilled that our center is providing new and exciting outlet stores, as well as supporting the community by creating new jobs and assisting in the overall economic growth for the area."

Improvements at the Las Vegas Boulevard center will add 70,000 square feet of space, bringing the property to 540,000 square feet. Thirteen new tenants will come on line as well, taking the center past 140 stores. Among the stores scheduled to debut in March are Guess, New Balance, True Religion and Under Armour. Michael Kors, Loft Outlet and Coach Men's will follow in April. Puma and Toys R Us will also open outposts at the center, though Simon executives didn't give firm opening dates for either company.

In all, the expansion will create more than 100 new retail jobs, Simon officials said.

Simon wouldn't disclose how much the company is spending on the upgrades.

But tenants at the center said investing in remodeling is a good strategy, even as consumer spending and visitor volumes in Las Vegas remain below their prerecession highs.

"I think it's a great time for the expansion, because the south Strip area is growing. This is a hub area between Mandalay Bay and the M Resort," said Rob Mullaney, owner of Hi-Lites Salon and Beauty Store. "It's also good to take advantage of challenging economic times to improve the physical building, bring in new retailers and create a better all-around experience. It gives us a leg up on the competition, because our center is newer and upgraded. Not a lot of retail centers in Las Vegas can say that right now."

Mullaney said he expects his business to increase 10 percent to 12 percent in the 18 months after the expansion's opening.

At Uniform Sports, which sells licensed team apparel and accessories, sales should also improve in the two years following the unveiling of the mall's new brand, store owner Bruce Mianecki said.

The Liz Claiborne store across the way from Uniform Sports has cleared out, but the space is set for takeover by an upscale retailer of men's and women's clothes and accessories. The change should bring in a demographic better suited to Mianecki's store, he said.

"If they've got the funds to do it, this is a great time to expand," Mianecki said. "Retail is on the rise in the Las Vegas Valley. Everyone I know in retail has posted gains since last year."

Renaming the 18-year-old property should also help with brand identity, Mianecki said.

"Having the 'premium' name will make a difference," he said. "Everyone still calls us Belz," a reference to prior owner Belz Enterprises, which operated the center as the Belz Factory Outlet Mall. Belz sold the center to Chelsea Property Group in 2003, and Simon bought Chelsea in 2004.

Since it acquired the property, Simon has slowly been making over the mall's tenant list. Gone are the tool sellers and kitchen-goods retailers, replaced by trendy brands including Coach, DKNY, Sean John and Kenneth Cole.

"I think customers are looking more for clothes than, say, dishes," Mullaney said. "The tenant mix has changed nicely over the last three to four years, into the kinds of brands and shopping experiences that people are looking for today."

But Mianecki said the transformation has left less room for smaller, individual retailers such as Uniform Sports, and he's concerned that trend will continue. His lease is good for another four years, but his rent rates jump 3 percent a year, and he frets that when it's time to renew his deal, lease rates might skyrocket so much that he'll have to move.

"It seems like they're squeezing the mom and pops out like all the other big boys do. They're looking at more corporate-type stores," Mianecki said. "I feel that's bad. The bottom line is, businesses like mine are the backbone of the United States. Small to medium businesses are what made this country great."

On top of adding space and stores, Simon is painting the mall's interior, expanding its parking lot and replacing inside lighting with high-efficiency compact fluorescent fixtures to lower the property's energy use.
In addition to both Las Vegas Premium Outlet malls, Simon owns the Forum Shops at Caesars.

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