Size of aisles, landscape attract shoppers to Cincinnati Premium Outlets

Lines pour into Nike, Coach, other stores as visitors attempt to collect giveaways, sign up for prizes.

By News Staff
Updated 12:38 PM Thursday, August 6, 2009

The scene at Cincinnati Premium Outlets may be packed with patrons, today, Aug. 6 — but at least it’s an appealing atmosphere, said some.

Landscaping includes a number of trees, shrubs, flowers and grassy areas. Benches line the aisle ways, and mall maps can be found in multiple spots.

The wide aisles and large space for walking helps, said Michelle Schon, of Oregonia.

“It’s nice to shop and still have some elbow room,” said Schon, who had her 18-month old son Andrew in a stroller.

“I figured it would be crowded, and it is, but I don’t feel cramped.” Schon currently is a patron of Prime Outlets in Jefferson, but said she will definitely return to the new mall in Monroe.

A play area near a large central fountain (already filling with pennies that have likely been wished upon) was filled with children around noon. Parents and guardians surrounded the area, watching, talking and eating.

The food court, directly behind the outdoor play area and close to the large Nike store, includes several eateries, which were all booming with business. Patrons were lined up at Chicken Now, China Max, Steak It Out and Villa Fresh Italian Kitchen.

Traveling to the mall

Traffic conditions on Interstate 75 and Ohio 63 in both directions were slow around noon, and the exits were backed up. Ohio 63 was backed up heading east all the way to Cincinnati-Dayton Road.

Shoppers began showing up at the center at 4:30 a.m. just as mall personnel were arriving to set up for the opening, said Michele Rothstein, spokeswoman and senior vice president of marketing for Chelsea Property Group.

Mall operators have lined the streets to the new facility with signs giving directions, and there is a high security presence for the opening. When parking gets full, shuttles will transport shoppers to and from the I-75 industrial center lots, right next door.

Shoppers were anxious to receive door prizes, including the popular free pearl necklace to the first 100 people in line at ULTRA Diamonds.

Lisa Griffith, a resident of Middletown, said she had been waiting in line since 6:30 a.m. to get the necklace.

“It will be chaos in a little bit because they are going to open both sets of doors at the same time,” she said. “You are going to have to fight your way in, but I am ready to fight.”

John Klein, president of the Chelsea Property Group, is pleased with the turn out.

“There are lots of early shoppers and good traffic. In this environment everyone loves a bargain,” he said.

“In this economy, this opening is a sign that good things are happening. This center is a good destination within Monroe. People will eat, shop and drop their money and go home.”

The Coach store let shoppers in at 8:45 a.m. before the grand opening. A line was formed around the side of the store even though Coach was not giving away free items.

Shopper Janna Smith of Cincinnati had spent by 9:45 a.m. more than $700 on three purses at the Coach store.

“I budgeted myself for $2,000. I hope I can stay within budget,” Smith said.

Several hundred people were strolling through the center and collecting maps to decide their course of action.

“I suspect what people will be doing is they will be getting their maps, comparing it to the promos,” Rothstein said. “It will be interesting to observe the flow of the people and for that our perspective is that is the exciting part. It’s not the crowds but where people are shopping and what they are excited about.”

Rothstein said she is expecting large crowds for the opening consisting of mostly local shoppers, with Saturday and Sunday growing in numbers as more people will be off work and able to shop. She would not give a number estimate, but said Cincinnati Premium Outlets officials will be tracking it as well as the number of people sign up for the center’s VIP Club, which offers shopper coupons and inside tips.

Two early shoppers, Barb Tesorero and Nancy Matthews of Mason, said they were impressed by the attractiveness of the new mall.

“It’s absolutely beautiful. We had to come check it out,” said Tesorero, who plans to split her outlet shopping between the new Monroe mall and the one located in Jeffersonville.

It was “pure curiosity” that brought the two women to the grand opening, Tesorero said.

“The drive from Mason to the outlet Mall took less than 10 minutes,” she said.

Economic effect

The success of the Cincinnati Premium Outlets mall grand opening could signify a turn for the better for retailers in a national economy which has had few bright spots.

“If they do well, there are signs that the economic recession that we may not be at the bottom but we are closer to the bottom than we were six months ago,” said Thomas Hall, economics professor at Miami University. “We should expect retail sales to be picking up in the next six months.”

With 100 outlet stores, two anchor stores and seven food vendors making their debut at the opening of the mall, there are certainly plenty of options for anxious shoppers.

The amount of shopping bags in their hands, however, will signify just how successful the high-end mall will be in Monroe, Hall said.

However, it will take several months of strong sales to determine if the Cincinnati Premium Outlets will be sustainable as a retail center.

“The grand opening is still important, though,” Hall said. “What would be a disaster here is if they open this thing and it flops, no one shows up.”

Likely other stores, especially at retail outlets in Hamilton County like the Tri-County Mall, may see a drop in customers as the Monroe mall grabs more shoppers. Tax revenues in Warren County should certainly see a boost, Hall said.

Officials from Chelsea Property Group, developer of the mall, estimate it will generate $150 million annually in retail sales revenue. Kimm Coyner, economic development director of Warren County said based on that figure, the county could receive $1.5 million in sales tax revenues.

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