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Edmonton’s latest mall is aimed at savvy shoppers and tourists

Rendering of the Premium Outlet Collection - Edmonton International Airport. Photo courtesy of Ivanhoé Cambridge.

Commuters that travel past the airport on Queen Elizabeth II Highway are not going to see a flat open space of land anymore. Development is underway for a massive retail complex called Premium Outlet Collection – Edmonton International Airport (EIA). The grand opening of Premium Outlet Collection – EIA is set for May 2, 2018, and the mall will offer a curated mix of outlet stores, fashion brands and first-to-market retailers, with a target of fashionable shoppers looking for value in big name brands.

The Outlet is timely. Alberta’s overall retail trade value is on the upswing, showing a positive 7.2 per cent rise in March 2017 over March 2016. Clothing and clothing accessory sales grew 2.4 per cent during this timeframe, while jewellery, luggage and leather goods rose 13.6 per cent.

“We are very proud that Ivanhoé Cambridge and Simon Property Group are opening the Premium Outlet Collection at EIA,” says Geoff Herdman, director, real estate, EIA. “When this [400,000+ square foot] collection opens in May of 2018, it will promote the Edmonton metro region as a Canadian and international destination. This collection will provide over 1,000 jobs, and it will generate tourism traffic throughout our region.”

John Scott, senior vice president, development, retail, Ivanhoé Cambridge, is also excited about the new mall. “We are delighted to join forces with Simon’s team of seasoned retail professionals on this great project,” he says. “The Premium Outlet Collection – EIA is ideally positioned to take full advantage of the close to 7 million tourists who visit the Edmonton area annually and arrive through one of Canada’s busiest airports.”

Mark Silvestri, chief operating officer of Simon Premium Outlets, noted in an earlier news release, “We are excited to team up with Ivanhoé Cambridge on what promises to be another great project, and to deliver the very best in outlet shopping to the many tourists and residents of the Edmonton area. This will be Simon’s fourth outlet center in Canada, joining very successful projects in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. With this development and others scheduled to be complete by fall 2017, Simon will achieve the milestone of 100 outlet centers owned worldwide.”

The big question on shoppers’ minds is: ‘Which retailers are going to be in the mall?’ but as Scott points out, “It is still too early to confirm retailers at this stage.” Major brands are, however, expected to be attracted to the space. “The mall will feature 38,600 m2 (415,000 ft2) of retail outlets, offering value shopping from over 100 renowned brands, all housed under one roof. The type of retail mix will be similar to the Outlet Collection at Niagara and Outlet Collection Winnipeg. We will have exciting announcements to make in the near future!”

While eager shoppers wait with anticipation for the confirmation of retail brands, Scott can confirm the following good news, “Over 1,500 full- and part-time jobs in retail and construction will be created by Premium Outlet Collection – EIA. The Outlet will become a shopping destination of choice for value-seeking and fashion-conscious Edmontonians, tourists and travellers alike. It is ideally located in a spot that sees over 7.5 million passengers flying into or out of Edmonton International Airport. The Premium Outlet Collection will become a key component in the airport’s master plan. We anticipate Premium Outlet Collection – EIA to become very popular right from opening day.”

The Outlet is designed to fit into the area’s industrial setting while also providing a convenient destination and an outstanding experience shoppers.

“Premium Outlet Collection – EIA will have a ‘warm industrial chic’ design, creating a contemporary shopping experience,” Scott confirms. “The property will also offer an airport shuttle service, which will be in place by the opening of the centre. The shuttle will provide airport travellers with the opportunity to easily move between the terminal and Outlet. During longer layovers, a new parcel storage and delivery service will be made available to customers who buy on the way through and want to have either pick-up service on the return leg of their travel, or simply to have their items delivered directly to their home.”

So far, everything sounds great about the upcoming shopping mall, but Craig Patterson, director of applied research, school of retailing, University of Alberta, weighs in with a different, and a scholarly, viewpoint.

“The new Premium Outlet Collection – EIA is an exciting development for the city,” he’s quick to admit. “It’s the first American-styled designer outlet mall in Alberta – CrossIron Mills in Calgary is technically a hybrid-outlet centre, featuring both full- and off-price retail concepts. The Outlet centre could potentially be a draw for those flying in and out of Edmonton International Airport, including those stopping over on the way to other destinations. The mall could also be a draw for those living in Edmonton, although we’re not yet sure which retailers will open in the centre.”

Patterson continues, “Typically, such an outlet mall is anchored by at least one major off-price retail concept store. In the United States and at several Canadian outlets, Saks OFF 5TH is an anchor. Nordstrom Rack is also a strong anchor at many American outlet malls, and Nordstrom Rack will enter the Canadian market next spring.

“Both Saks OFF 5TH and Nordstrom Rack will be tenants at nearby South Edmonton Common. It is, therefore, unlikely that either will anchor the EIA outlet centre. That’s a concern because such an anchor would act as a draw for consumers in the region. If Winners or Marshalls were to act as anchors, for example, neither would provide the same attraction because both are already available with other locations in the area.

“It, therefore, remains to be seen how Edmontonians will react to the new outlet mall, and its tenant mix will be key to its success. I wish them well securing a compelling mix of tenants, although I’m a bit concerned that neither Saks OFF 5TH nor Nordstrom Rack will be possibilities, given their proximity at the nearby South Edmonton Common.”

Edmonton has enjoyed a long history of being a premium shopping destination, from housing one of the largest malls in the world to the innovative South Edmonton Common. Now, as the next evolution of retail shopping in the Capital City is poised to unveil in 2018, it will be interesting to see who shows up as a tenant, and how the mix of tourists and locals will play out in this sprawling, ambitious project. One thing, however, is certain – shoppers love a great price on brand name merchandise, so in this case, it looks like, as the saying goes, “if you build it, they will come.”