With new owners, sales increase at OKC Outlets

Published Tuesday, November 27, 2018
by Molly M. Fleming

On Friday, traffic along Interstate 40 East was backed up to S. MacArthur Boulevard as people made their way to the OKC Outlets.

Stores opened Thursday evening and the shopping continued into Friday.

OKC Outlets General Manager Jeannette Smith said the parking lot at 7624 W. Reno Ave. was full during the weekend.

“Our initial findings are that everyone did very well,” Smith said. “A number of retailers had record (sales) days.”

The weekend’s success at the OKC Outlets is a continuation of good traffic since Outlet Resource Group purchased the 394,000-square-foot property in July 2017.

Since the company purchased the property, traffic is up 7 percent compared with last year and retail sales are up 6.3 percent, as of September, said Mitchell Brown, chief operating officer with Outlet Resource Group. In retail, flat sales in shopping centers are the new up, he said, so this high of an increase is phenomenal.

As of September, there were $89.7 million in sales at the outlets. During the 2017-2018 fiscal year, those sales generated $5.6 million in sales taxes. There are about 1,250 people employed at the center.

Brown gave a presentation to the Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust on Nov. 13 about the OKC Outlets’ performance since the company purchased it.

“It’s a strong economic generator and we think these are great results,” he said.

Outlet Resource Group spent millions updating the property, taking the multicolored buildings down to only a few colors, allowing the brand logos to be more prominent, he said. With the new paint also came a new name, which Brown said was more user-friendly and reflected current trends.

He said the entrance off I-40 near Council Road and Reno Avenue is challenging, with several other businesses in the area, making it crowded.

“There are businesses we’d rather not have at our front door,” he said. “We still think there’s opportunity to improve this intersection and create a better customer experience.”

When the company first dug into the center’s operations, it found with a quick cellphone survey that people were driving from as far west as Amarillo, Texas, to come to the stores. There were scattered pockets of people who were making the trip to Oklahoma City, spanning from Wichita to north Texas.

“While we’re drawing a broad geography, there’s not much population density out to the west,” Brown said.

The company refocused the outlet marketing in three key areas. Those three focus areas were trying to get more local people to shop at the center, keying in on the tourism market, and looking at outer areas such as Tulsa. It hired Oklahoma City-based Funnel Design Group to give a new face to the advertisements.

He said using advertising dollars in this way seems to be more productive. He showed two different maps, with the first map having scattered pockets of customers, and the second map having more customers around Oklahoma City.

When the center was built in 2010, the city entered into an economic development agreement with previous owners Horizon Group Properties. The city provided about $4 million in public improvements to the site for construction, as well as a 10-year agreement to reimburse $550,000 annually in marketing. Brown’s presentation showed that $533,793 had been spent on marketing.

With the holiday season, there are outlet ads running on 16 radio stations statewide, among other marketing efforts.

“The digital campaign does three times better than the industry benchmark,” he said.

The outlets also attracted more out-of-state visitors than competitors in the marketplace, such as malls. Brown didn’t give the names of the shopping centers.

The center has a challenge with its food court options. Most of the sit-down restaurants are on the property’s perimeter. Brown said improving the food court options is something that is on ORG’s horizon.

There could be an entertainment option coming to the OKC Outlets, though. Brown said customers to shopping centers with movie theaters or other entertainment options stay at the center longer than when the center doesn’t have that option.

“I think you’ll see us focused on those categories as we try to round out the consumer experience at the shopping center,” he said.

Smith said Outlet Resource Group is vested in the property. She said she thinks the successful Black Friday was a combination of it being a traditional shopping day and the new marketing work.

“We want our retailers to be successful, which is why we’re investing heavily in marketing,” she said.

Read the story at JournalRecord.com

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