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Outlet mall plans remain at standstill

Retailers flock to area, but no outlet in sight

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Efforts to bring an outlet mall to metro Augusta have so far proved fruitless, though other retail endeavors across the area are blossoming.

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A new Sam's Club store under construction in Aiken is one of several major commercial projects announced for the Augusta area in recent months.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
A new Sam's Club store under construction in Aiken is one of several major commercial projects announced for the Augusta area in recent months.

Blanchard and Calhoun Commercial Senior Vice President Matt Mills said his company, in addition to an affiliate, solicited interest for a local outlet mall about 18 months ago at various retail-outlet conferences to a tepid audience.

“The feedback we got back from most of them was they were going to concentrate in more metropolitan areas,” Mills said. “Augusta just wasn’t big enough for their expansion model at the time.”

Since then, there haven’t been any bites.

Other retailers, on the other hand, seem to be chomping at the bit to bring their business to the area despite a still-sluggish economy.

On July 24, Bass Pro Shops announced a 50,000-square-foot outpost store coming near the Columbia County intersection of Interstate 20 and Flowing Wells Road, possibly as soon as late next year. Just the next day, news came of a 42,000-square-foot Cabela’s sporting goods store and a 14-auditorium movie theater within the Village at Riverwatch development in Augusta.

On Wednesday, another announcement revealed plans for a 41,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market at Washington Crossing Shopping Center, off Washington Road and Interstate 20.

Other area projects already in the works or recently opened include a Sam’s Club in Aiken County, three new Walmarts across the area, a Carolina Pottery store in Martinez, a second Big Lots in Evans and an H&M fashion store for the Augusta Mall.

In an attempt to gauge interest for a local outlet mall, Columbia County planning officials surveyed residents in January 2011. More than 90 percent of about 4,000 respondents across the area supported such a development in the county.

The idea initially gained steam after a 2010 Columbia County retail survey had indicated the public wanted an outlet mall within county limits. A parcel next to the Grovetown Walmart in the Gateway shopping center, which has I-20 frontage, was identified as an ideal, ready-to-go location.

The county additionally created an outlet-mall analysis available to developers interested in embarking on the project.

Columbia County Development Services Director Richard Harmon has said that a local outlet mall would benefit Columbia County and surrounding areas by generating sales tax revenue, creating jobs and cutting driving distances for shoppers.

Working against the outlet mall concept is that many of the retailers, such as Nike and Polo, that were contacted by Mills and his consultant said they didn’t want to negatively affect sales of stores already carrying their products in the Augusta market, Mills said.

“Given the size of the market and the presence of their primary retail stores in the Augusta Mall, they were afraid that the outlet locations would cannibalize on sales,” he said.

Several outlet retailers, including Nike, Timberland and Coach, declined to comment on how they choose a new site and whether Augusta would be a desirable location.

For outlet-mall giant Tanger, which operates Georgia retail developments in Commerce and Locust Grove, street visibility and ease of access rank high when considering potential sites, spokesman Quentin Pell wrote in an e-mail.

“Typically our sites usually enjoy high visibility along roadways with high-passenger counts from residents and tourists,” Pell wrote. “The decision to move on any given project is unique and multifaceted.”

The company has 43 outlet centers in 26 states and Canada. Four Tanger outlet centers are along the South Carolina coast, including Hilton Head and Charleston.

Pell said Tanger is continually in the process of evaluating new project sites but ruled out the Augusta market as a current prospect.

Mills said he believes Augusta will “definitely be home to an outlet center” in the future when the economy and outlet retailers’ attitude justify the endeavor.

“I think we’re going to continue to monitor it,” he said. “When it makes sense, and the retailers’ perspective changes, and they want to invest in a secondary market like Augusta, we’ll be ready to take advantage of it.”

OUTLET-MALL SURVEY

Results of Columbia County outlet mall survey in January 2011:

• Of about 4,000 people surveyed, more than 90 percent supported an outlet mall inside the county.

• About 96 percent of respondents said they currently shopped at outlet centers.

• More than 1,200 people polled lived outside Columbia County, with 36 percent living less than 25 miles away and 16 percent living between 25 and 100 miles away.

• Residents said an outlet center would boost sales tax revenue, create jobs and increase shopping opportunities within the county

Comments (12) Add comment
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LeConteSkier
567
Points
LeConteSkier 08/04/13 - 01:21 am
3
0
How about build an outlet

How about build an outlet mall half way between Columbia and Augusta at the Aiken exit? That way they get customers from West Columbia, Lexington, Aiken and Augusta???

Riverman1
93579
Points
Riverman1 08/04/13 - 06:50 am
6
2
That Grovetown I-20 site is

That Grovetown I-20 site is going to attract something. If a business wants it they better jump soon.

LeConte, about the site you propose, that's where a Columbia-Augusta joint airport should be built. Imagine the flights it could attract and the money that could be saved by both cities sharing the costs.

soapy_725
44111
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soapy_725 08/04/13 - 10:34 am
0
0
All retail store are OUTLETS. Wake up from your sleep.
Unpublished

You can save more money via sales, than so called outlets.

soapy_725
44111
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soapy_725 08/04/13 - 10:35 am
0
0
So called Outlet Malls are merely entertainment venues.
Unpublished

So called Outlet Malls are merely entertainment venues.

countyman
21630
Points
countyman 08/04/13 - 10:39 am
1
1
Outlet mall

The proposed outlet mall site is now 40 acres of apartments and 30 acres of smaller commercial lots(restaurant, hotel, office)...

Sweet son
11588
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Sweet son 08/04/13 - 02:39 pm
1
0
Outlet Malls seem to survive at destination locations.

Augusta is just not a destination location. Most of us come up with enough money to go on a destination location vacation. From Augusta it's is roughly 3 hours to the mountains or the beach. Those locations seem to be able to support outlets because the possible shoppers are more in a spending mind set. We all know that when we are on vacation if we are lucky enough to afford it that we spend more on sleeping, dining and other amenities. Therefore we go to the outlets with a little extra money in our pockets and often spend it at outlets and usually get a pretty good deal on what we buy.

bdouglas
5777
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bdouglas 08/04/13 - 03:04 pm
4
0
@Sweet Son

I'm sorry, but that's just not true. While many destination locations have outlets, there are PLENTY of examples of outlet centers built in places that are not even near large metros or destination cities. Commerce and Dawsonville in GA directly come to mind.

corgimom
38354
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corgimom 08/04/13 - 03:48 pm
1
0
Commerce is in the North Ga

Commerce is in the North Ga mountains, so is Dawsonville. Those locations are already major tourist destinations.

People on vacation like to shop. There aren't a lot of good reasons to go to Augusta GA for a vacation.

You can't overcome having the beach or the mountains, Augusta has neither.

corgimom
38354
Points
corgimom 08/04/13 - 03:52 pm
1
0
What the retailers are saying

What the retailers are saying is this, plain and simple:

There is not enough population and money to support both retail and outlet stores. The retailers know this.

People are getting very savvy, they know that with the Internet, they can often get better deals on line than the outlets. I used to go to Gaffney a lot, now I go maybe once a year, if that.

You used to be able to get great deals at outlets- now, not so much, and people know that. So many major retailers now have Net sites, it's easier and cheaper just to put their overstock merchandise in a warehouse and sell it online.

Charlotte is just now getting one, and it has nearly 1 million people just in Meck County alone. It takes a really big population or a major tourist destination to be able to support one.

Pops
14351
Points
Pops 08/04/13 - 06:20 pm
0
0
How about the ultimate outlet

50 Guys Burgers.......

bdouglas
5777
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bdouglas 08/04/13 - 06:30 pm
3
0
Gatlinburg, Asheville, etc

Gatlinburg, Asheville, etc are "destinations" in the mountains. HHI and Myrtle are big beach destinations. Commerce and Dawsonville are barely even in the foothills and are not destinations. They are simply on the way. Just like Augusta is on the way to the beach for anyone west or northwest of here. One of Tanger's newer outlets is in Mebane, NC, which is outside of Burlington, NC...a metro much smaller than Augusta and not remotely a "destination" city.

As for Charlotte, are you forgetting Concord Mills? It may not be Charlotte proper, but it's every bit as much Charlotte as Grovetown is Augusta and it's been there 14 years...

Sweet son
11588
Points
Sweet son 08/04/13 - 06:58 pm
0
2
Thanks corgi.

Thanks for backing me up. I guess in bdouglas' mind I was all wrong but I suppose I was also right.

raul
5729
Points
raul 08/05/13 - 02:32 pm
0
0
Been to the Tanger's outlet

Been to the Tanger's outlet mall in Charleston. Not impressed with the prices at all. Too high for an outlet, IMO.

pja5529
2719
Points
pja5529 12/14/13 - 01:12 am
0
0
Commerce

I was definitely about to post about Commerce. There are plenty of outlets not located near destination places. However I thin with the state of the economy, retailers have been more cautious about where they place new locations.

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