Six retailers have committed to opening at the Nebraska Crossing Outlets in the fall of 2013, developers told The World-Herald on Thursday. The retailers are:
They are among 30 brands that have committed to the outlets. The rest will be announced in phases over the summer.
Click here to read previous coverage of the Nebraska Crossing redevelopment and the new outlet mall planned at Southport West.
Developers planning to revamp the Nebraska Crossing outlet mall in Gretna said Thursday that they have enough committed retailers to move forward with a plan to turn the struggling center into a high-tech destination shopping experience.
Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Chico's, Gap, Lane Bryant and White House Black Market all have committed to opening at the Nebraska Crossing Outlets in the fall of 2013, said developers Rod Yates of OTB Destination, based in Park City, Utah, and Frank Krejci of Omaha's Century Development.
The two told The World-Herald that a total of about 30 new-to-the state outlet brands have committed to the project. Some have signed leases and some are still negotiating. They'll all be announced in phases over the summer.
Yates said more than 60 percent of the 325,000- square-foot outlet mall at the intersection of Interstate 80 and Nebraska Highways 6 and 31 will be spoken for when construction begins later this year. About 40,000 square feet will be leased by existing tenants, which include Carter's and OshKosh.
In addition to the $70 million redevelopment, the Nebraska Crossing developers have committed to investing more than $15 million for new software and hardware platforms to offer consumers a new type of shopping experience.
In collaboration with OBI Creative in Omaha, the developers will launch the “INlet” concept at Nebraska Crossing Outlets. It's a “next-generation approach” that will allow shoppers to nab promotions and discounts, find available parking spots and get dining offers via their mobile phones.
“We believe the strategic direction and redevelopment of Nebraska Crossing Outlets is compelling,” said Roger Kehm, vice president of real estate for Brooks Brothers Group Inc. “We are excited to announce our commitment to open our first store in the state of Nebraska.”
Retailers are attracted to the Omaha area because of its high population of college graduates, low unemployment rate, low cost of living and stable housing market, said Lee Ra Johnson of OTB Destination. “Omaha is a big bull's-eye,” she said.
While there have been a number of competing potential outlet mall sites over the years, Yates said it's the retailers who decide where an outlet mall will go. He said when retailers came to tour Nebraska Crossing, he also took them to competing sites, such as the Outlets at Southport West envisioned near Cabela's at the I-80 and Harrison Street interchange, and asked for feedback.
He said the general discussion was that La Vista was too close to full-price retail such as Oak View Mall, Village Pointe shopping center and Westroads Mall. Nebraska Crossing is more than 10 miles from all three malls.
He said the retailers also have been attracted to the innovative “INlet” concept, which was developed to respond to the evolving, multichannel shopping habits of today's consumer. He called it the “Amazon model for brick-and-mortar retail.”
“Value is the new luxury,” Yates said, “and for today's consumer, value is more time, more convenience and more access to better deals.”
The vision is to “out-position” traditional outlet centers by focusing on consumer behavior and the intersection of technology with brick-and-mortar shopping, said Mary Ann O'Brien, CEO of OBI Creative, who has partnered with the developers to create and execute the strategy at Nebraska Crossing Outlets.
For example, upon approaching the shopping center, the INlet technology will recognize a shopper's profile and preferences through his or her mobile device and direct the shopper to an available parking spot while also offering interactive and customized promotions from the shopper's favorite brands. Shoppers must first sign up for the free service.
Or, imagine the moment of truth when you take a picture of a product and quickly do a comparison search on the smartphone, only to realize the price online is less. The technology platform and applications will allow tenants and shoppers to connect at that moment so the retailer can provide a special offer to close and complete the sale, limiting what retailers call the “showrooming effect.”
Johnson said the format and marketing should draw shoppers from a 200-mile trade area, including Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota and Kansas.
So did Nebraska Crossing Outlets oust the proposed Outlets at Southport West by landing major outlet brands first?
There's no way of telling just yet.
Mitch Beaumont, the City of La Vista's community relations coordinator, said there were no new announcements on the plan, described last year as a $114 million project of about 435,000 square feet that also would include an entertainment district.
Last month, Baltimore developer Cordish Cos. said the company has made “excellent progress” on all aspects of the proposed mall, including leases and design plans, and hopes to start construction this year. Yet experts in the commercial real estate and retail industry say the Omaha-area can support only one outlet mall.
Both La Vista and Gretna have in place a sales tax incentive, passed by the Legislature in 2010 and approved by voters in each city, to help fund their respective projects. The incentive allows 1.5 percent of local option sales tax generated by finished projects to be used to fund them for 10 years.
Yates was the developer for Legends Outlets Kansas City, which opened in 2006 in Kansas City, Kan., as a lifestyle center called Legends at Village West. It's anchored by a Nebraska Furniture Mart and Cabela's.
Yates said it struggled during the recession and its occupancy rate dropped from 96 percent to 60 percent. So he decided to change it to an outlet mall format. Since, it has done well.
Some of its stores include Polo, Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH, J.Crew, Cole Haan, Under Armour, Chico's and White House Black Market. The redeveloped center's occupancy is up to 95 percent and the overall center's sales are up 20 percent.
In fact, Yates said the success of some of the Legends outlet stores is what is drawing them into the Omaha market.
The Gretna center “is going to thrive,” Yates said, predicting it eventually will achieve “$150 million in sales annually.”
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