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The Outlet Collection at Niagara, built for an estimated $162 million, includes more than 100 stores opened last summer within the shadows of the Garden City Skyway south of the Welland Canal, on the former site of a harness racing track. Unlike many other malls, each of the Outlet Collection stores and shops have their own entrances linked by partially covered walkways.
That it adversely impacts the Fashion Outlets Niagara USA, in the Town of Niagara, is evident at a cursory glance at the parking lots there, usually dominated by vehicles bearing Ontario license plates.
Local residents too have noted a generally sharp decrease in traffic, especially in the Military Road area. Meanwhile, the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission reports that its traffic from November 2014 to February 2015 was down 14 percent, compared with the same period a year ago, according to General Manager Lew Holloway. The commission operates the Lewiston Queenston, Whirlpool Rapids and Rainbow bridges.
When the ribbon was cut in Ontario last May, Daniel E. Fournier, chairman and chief executive officer of Ivanhoe Cambridge, the real estate company that developed the complex, said, “We are sending a clear message to the outlet shopping industry that we mean business.” Ivanhoe Cambridge officials also indicated at the time that they intend to build similar malls around the globe.
“We’ve seen a little bit of a drop (in business),” said Michael Powers, marketing manager at the Fashion Outlets, 1900 Military Road. “And most of it is probably due to the current rate of exchange. We’re in one of those cycles and we hope that it’s temporary.”
Calls to the Outlet Collection management for comment were not returned. Visitors to the Ontario mall had wide ranging reactions. A shopper from Markham, a Toronto suburb, said, “The stores though not too exciting but every one I went to was clean and well layed out.”
A Thornhill, Ont., resident added, “I went there on a weekday and it wasn’t busy at all. This mall is still new and I hope it will bring in more higher end brands.” A woman from Pickering, Ont., was not impressed, “I did not see any good deals or merchandise that was any different than what you’d find at regular mall stores.” From a St. Catharines woman: “A very positive shopping experience. Prices and service were really great at DKNY. Also received good service at Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, and J. Crew.”