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Simon Premium Outlets Vice President of Development Scott Richardson said its new Norfolk Premium Outlets, set to open June 29, will be complementary to another of its properties about 50 miles to the north, the Williamsburg Premium Outlets.
Simon Premium Outlets Vice President of Development Scott Richardson said its new Norfolk Premium Outlets, set to open June 29, will be complementary to another of its properties about 50 miles to the north, the Williamsburg Premium Outlets. (Jimmy LaRoue/Virginia Gazette)
To Simon Premium Outlets officials, the new Norfolk Premium Outlets and its sister property, Williamsburg Premium Outlets nearly 50 miles north, complement rather than compete with one another.
Still, on the website for Williamsburg Premium Outlets, it touts itself as serving “the nearby areas of Williamsburg, Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Richmond.”
Norfolk Premium Outlets, which opens June 29, sits just off of Interstate 64 and Northampton Boulevard, and within sight of Norfolk International Airport. Williamsburg Premium Outlets is off Route 199 and Richmond Road in James City County.
“Really, this is a different animal than Williamsburg, because this is our current prototype, for lack of a better term,” said Simon vice president of development Scott Richardson. “Williamsburg is an excellent place to shop, but it doesn’t have the sense of place that we have here.”
By that, Richardson said that, unlike Norfolk’s outlet property, it doesn’t have a lake and gazebo, a linear park, gathering areas, a boardwalk and walking trail surrounding the lake.
Promotional materials tout the Norfolk outlet mall’s village style setting and a sophisticated, contemporary design. The new outlet mall will also have fountains, fireplaces and public artwork.
“The differential for us here are the many communal spaces that have been developed as part of the property,” said Norfolk Premium Outlets director of marketing and business director Kathie Strauss.
What Williamsburg Premium Outlets does have is stores 130 of them, including the newly opened Brookstone, on 350,000 square feet of property. The new outlet mall will debut with 50 retailers, and will have 56 by the end of 2017 in the 323,
000 square foot property.
Of the two outlets, 29 retailers will operate in both the Williamsburg and Norfolk outlet malls.
“(There was) no hesitancy whatsoever,” Richardson said.
“Through our portfolio, we have many examples of a new mall coming into an area where there had been a premium outlet before,” Morris said.
Three summers ago, Morris said Simon opened Twin Cities Premium Outlets in Eagan, Minnesota, about 10 minutes from the Minneapolis St. Paul airport. About an hour away to the north, there was already the Albertville Premium Outlets. Both, he said, are thriving today.
“We’re not going to cannibalize our marketplace,” Morris said. “We put a lot of thought into this and we feel that definitely, both will exist just fine, as they have in other markets.”
Karen Riordan, president of the Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance, said she trusts Simon’s judgement in opening a new outlet mall in Norfolk. She said she has talked with Simon officials and is comfortable with the company’s plans.
“I trust that they’ve done the homework that says there will be initial excitement over anything new . but I think our base is great,” Riordan said. “We are a tourism economy. In addition to our locals enjoying the Williamsburg Premium Outlets, we do have so many tourists who are here for a couple of days and they do want shopping.”
Simon officials tout a positive economic impact to the Norfolk region, generating between 250 and 500 construction jobs and 500 full and part time positions.
Richardson said Simon had been looking for several years for the right spot to open an outlet mall in a large market before it found the current site. He expects to be a regional draw for locals and tourists alike, and he expects that both outlets will thrive.
“Even though Williamsburg is perceived as being close, in this type of a market, with all of the waterways and everything, water tends to segment the market,” Richardson said, “and we truly believe that this being a more central opportunity will bring more people that might not want to take the time to go to Williamsburg.
Norfolk Premium Outlets will serve the cities south of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, including Virginia Beach and Norfolk, according to Richardson. He expects the new outlet mall to draw from Hampton and Newport News north of the tunnel, the Eastern Shore via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and northeastern North Carolina to the south, though it is prepared to serve those coming on buses with a dedicated lounge for those arriving or departing.
“Williamsburg will still be a very successful shopping center, as will this, so we did this as a complement to Williamsburg to completely serve the entire market.”
Riordan said she expects no loss of business as a result of Norfolk Premium Outlet’s opening later this month.
“I don’t anticipate that there there will be even a short term hit,” Riordan said. “I think that there will be curiosity. I think that locals, in particular, will want to go and check it out. But I think that because of that store mix difference and the distance, I think the Williamsburg Premium Outlets will still hold their own.”