It will go down to the wire, but the developers behind one of the city’s biggest retail developments in decades say the highly-anticipated 400,000-square-foot factory outlet mall will be ready for its May 3 grand opening.
Mall facts:Click to Expand
Outlet Collection Winnipeg
- Opening: May 3
- Stores: 100, including six anchor tenants
- Size: 400,000 sq. ft.
Polo Park Shopping Centre
- Opened: Aug. 1959
- Second level added in 1986
- Stores: More than 200, including five anchors
- Size: 1.2 million sq. ft.
St. Vital Centre
- Opened: Oct. 1979
- Stores: 160 stores, with seven anchors
- Size: 926, 310 sq. ft.
Kildonan Place Shopping Centre
- Opened: 1980
- Stores: 95, with three anchors
- Size: 460,498 sq. ft.
Portage Place Shopping Centre
- Opened: 1987
- Stores: Number unclear
- Size: 439,600 sq. ft.
- Opened: November 2012
- Size: 400,000 sq. ft.
"It’s always a mad dash to the end," Ivanhoe Cambridge’s John Scott told more than a dozen reporters and cameramen near the end of a 60-minute sneak-peek tour of the sprawling Outlet Collection Winnipeg mall, which is nearing completion across from IKEA at Kenaston Boulevard and Sterling Lyon Parkway.
"I know it looks pretty empty right now," Scott added, as he showed the media around one of the common areas in the mall. "But after you add some furniture and, of course, people, it will look very, very different."
Scott, who is Ivanhoe Cambridge’s senior vice-president of development, said there were about 1,200 workers toiling on the site on Thursday, working both inside and outside the $200-million facility. Most of the crews are working an average of about 10 hours a day as they scramble to complete the common areas and get the storefront spaces ready for occupancy. He noted the products for the stores were scheduled to begin arriving on Thursday.
When completed, Outlet Collection Winnipeg will feature about 100 retailers, including anchor tenants such as Saks Off 5th, Old Navy, F21 Red, DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse and Winners.
Scott said about 90 per cent of the space in the mall is leased. While some of the stores, such as Winners, American Eagle Outfitters, and F21 Red, won’t be ready until September, between 80 and 85 of them will be opening on May 3, he added.
Asked what sets this mall apart from other enclosed shopping centres in the city, Scott said it’s the merchandise mix and the fact every store in the mall is a factory outlet.
Premium factory outlet stores in Canada typically feature leading and designer-brand merchandise at 25 to 65 per cent off regular retail prices. Scott said while there are a few factory-outlet-style stores in Winnipeg — Winners, Marshall’s and HomeSense are three examples that come to mind — this will be the first time shoppers can find 100 of them under one roof.
"And the fact it’s climate-controlled is very unique," he said, noting most factory outlet centres are open-air design, where shoppers have to walk outdoors to get from one store to another.
"But here... we thought the consumer would react really well and be thankful for being able to be warm in the winter and cool in the summer," he added.
Scott and Ken Yee, senior vice-president with the commercial real estate firm of Cushman & Wakefield Winnipeg, said it’s hard to say how the prices in Outlet Collection Winnipeg will compare to prices in U.S. factory outlet malls.
"But I know from experience that even when you are shopping the outlets down in the U.S., you have to pick through everything," Yee added. "Everything isn’t fire-sale pricing. So if you’re a discerning shopper, you’ll enjoy it. But it’s not like you’ll buy everything you see because it’s such a great price. If you’re looking for a great deal, good value and good quality, you will have to spend your time (picking through things)."
John Pearson, a commercial real estate broker/developer with Winnipeg’s Shindico Realty Inc., noted the fashion products sold in outlet malls are often from the previous season. They can also sometimes be of a lesser quality than those typically found in a regular regional shopping centre.
"You wouldn’t make all of your fashion purchases at an outlet mall, so that leaves the doors wide open for Polo Park and St. Vital (shopping centres)," he added.
Because Outlet Collection Winnipeg will be the only factory outlet mall in this part of the country, Yee said it should have the same kind of drawing power as the city’s 400,000-square-foot IKEA store, which is also the only one of its kind in this region.
Scott said Ivanhoe Cambridge predicted the mall will draw shoppers from as far away as Minnesota, North Dakota, northwestern Ontario and Saskatchewan, although he wouldn’t speculate on exactly how many.
"But we think it’s going to extremely well received in this market," he added. " So we’re excited to see what those numbers will look like."
Yee estimated it could attract between 80,000 and 100,000 shoppers per week. He and Pearson said that will not only provide a shot in the arm for the local economy, but also for the local tourism industry.
"We already have other reasons to come here — the Jets, the Bombers and so on," Pearson said. "This is one more reason to come here."
Yee said the biggest spinoff benefit may be the 1,300 full- and part-time jobs the mall is creating.
"It puts a lot of people in some pretty good jobs there," he added.
The outlet mall is the centrepiece of the 117-acre Seasons retail, office and residential development, which is being developed by Regina-based Harvard Developments Inc. and Forster Projects Inc. The development will also include a four-star, 127-room hotel, two car dealerships, a 400-unit apartment complex, an assisted-living seniors complex, a Good Earth Coffeehouse, a DQ Grill & Chill restaurant, and the city’s first International House of Pancakes (IHOP restaurant).