MARCO ISLAND — Imminent new corporate owners, a possible name change down the line and a pending influx of new businesses has Prime Outlets plaza vendors feeling bullish about the immediate future.
The plaza on Collier Boulevard between Marco Island and U.S. 41 is among 22 Prime Outlet centers in Florida and three other states to be acquired by Simon Property Group, the largest public U.S. real estate company. The announcement was made in early December.
Local vendors aren’t worried about being a part of such a big player; instead, they welcome the possibility of increased business.
Lillian Mead has for the past 10 years sold perfume and beauty-related products from her Makeup Scents store in the plaza.
“Look, we’ve had a decade of problems over the past decade,” Mead said, “but it’s been from the outside, and not from the mall itself.
“First there was 9/11, and then the gas (price) problem, then the storms (of 2005), and now it’s the economy. We’re riding along just like everybody else,” Mead said. “We’re not any different from anybody that you talk to.”
She goes along with glimmers of an economic uptick cautiously being reported in the media.
“I see in the last month it’s been picking up,” Mead said.
She said new vendors such as Vandy’s 5 Brothers Pizza likely will provide extra business stimulus by increasing traffic.
Eli Stern, who runs a 3,000-square-foot store called Look-A-Likes, opted for the plaza in January when he had the opportunity to buy the former Angel’s Touch, which specialized in jewelry.
Stern sells what he bills as “quality replicas” of items such as handbags, sunglasses and watches, but plans to incorporate a broader inventory along with a name change of his own to Stern’s Fashion Jewelry & Accessories.
Stern said he estimated occupancy at the plaza to be about 65 to 70 percent at the moment.
“I believe they (Simon) might do some revamping, and maybe eventually change the name,” he said. “I think they’re very smart ... they’re number one in buying malls in the nation, and when they saw Prime Outlets they grabbed it.”
Stern said the perception sometimes is that Prime Outlets is quiet, but that “looks can be deceiving.”
Malls, he said, conduct traffic counts as a matter of course, and even though this past season produced a lower count than the year before, overall sales were estimated to be up between 8 to 10 percent.
“I asked my neighbors,” Stern said. “They all said they were up.”
A big advantage of the plaza’s linear layout, he added, is that shoppers can park directly in front of stores, and not have to walk great distances to get to them.
Besides brand-name stores such as Liz Claiborne, Izod, Coach, Bass and Samsonite, valuable local anchor stores contribute to the overall traffic, Stern said.
They include Palace Games slots, and Jack’s Golf Shack, and also a recently taken-over spa now called Jenny’s Nails & Day Spa.
Michele Rothstein, speaking on behalf of Simon Property Group, said the company preferred not to comment on any possible changes or innovations at the mall prior to the closing of the contract.
A news release put an approximate $700 million tag on the overall Prime Outlets acquisition.
Simon operates on five retail real estate platforms: regional malls, Premium Outlet Centers, The Mills, community/lifestyle centers and international properties.