Excerpt by JOHN COX Californian staff writer
If it seems like there’s a lot of work to be done in the three weeks before the Outlets at Tejon opens to the public, be patient: It’s no small task knocking the socks off a quarter million people. And that’s exactly what the project’s developers intend to do on opening weekend, Aug. 8-10. Headlined by factory stores from clothiers Polo Ralph Lauren, H&M and Brooks Brothers, the outlet center near the foot of the Grapevine is widely viewed as a slam dunk not only for its corporate developers but for Kern County and its retail-hungry residents.
The market has basically declared the 320,000-square-foot center a success even before its actual Thursday, Aug. 7 debut. It is fully leased with 71 store and restaurant tenants, and planning is underway on an adjacent, 180,000-square-foot expansion to the north. Also, at least two large retailers — The Gap and Lucky Brand — have left Valley Plaza mall to join the outlets, though observers say other factors are at play and the two centers probably won’t compete for tenants.
“I think overall it’s going to be a great, great project for the southern valley. No question,” said commercial real estate broker Scott Underhill, a partner at Newmark Grubb | ASU in Bakersfield.
He and others said the project offers clear advantages for retailers. Its location half an hour outside Bakersfield, near the intersection of Interstate 5 and Highway 99, puts it within 60 miles of 3.2 million residents, not to mention the 80,000 vehicles that pass the spot every day.
The timing is right, too. Kern County’s economy has regained its footing since the Great Recession. Long-planned retail centers on the books since Bakersfield’s 2006-07 housing bust are only now announcing tenants. The Tejon project is part of a surge that has added about 50 outlet centers worldwide since 2006 — a more than 10 percent increase to the global tally of about 400, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers trade group. It reported these centers’ annual sales totals have more than doubled to $42 billion since 2009. For Kern County, long viewed as offering a dearth of shopping options, the outlets project promises a sales tax revenue boost of nearly $1.3 million a year.
What’s more, the center is expected to create 1,500 to 2,500 jobs!
“This project will be a huge economic engine for the region,” Richard Chapman, president and CEO of Kern Economic Development Corp., wrote in an email. “The center will bring substantial ‘new money’ into the area from out-of-county visitors, as well as significantly lessen retail leakage, which occurs when members of a community spend money outside the community.”
On Wednesday, project officials guided a tour of the site for members of the news media. Reporters and cameramen witnessed a project that, for all its polish, has not quite reached the final-touches stage. Sales tables and clothing racks were bare inside most stores, while some stores were altogether unprepared to receive merchandise. Outside in the common spaces, fountains and other amenities awaited tile work. But no more than three of the project’s tenants — kitchenware chain Le Creuset, Vitamin World and perhaps one restaurant — will miss next month’s grand opening, said a spokesman for Tejon Ranch Co., the Lebec-based agribusiness and real estate developer partnering on the project with New York’s The Rockefeller Group.
The center’s open-air architecture speaks to California’s Spanish colonial history, with stuccoed archways and tile roofs reminiscent of the state’s historic missions. The color scheme is more modern, with bold taupes, golds and autumnal oranges. Inside the Pottery Barn workers had begun stocking the sales floor with baskets and other home furnishings. General Manager Cherie Meza said the store has hired 30 employees but is still looking for another 40 workers. Her expectation was that the store will offer Bakersfield residents “exceptional services at exceptional prices. We will be a destination store,” she said.
In a sense, that’s the whole idea behind outlets. Usually located at least 20 miles from metropolitan areas for competitive reasons, they tend to draw shoppers from a large region for a day or half a day of shopping. Outlets generally offer what are known as overruns and factory seconds — goods that either failed to sell at “front-line” stores or which contained small blemishes such as a stitching error. Many outlet stores, especially those selling clothes, also offer their own brand made specifically for such venues. The idea is to target shoppers who are as brand-conscious as they are price-focused.
“You’re not getting the quality that’s out there (in mall-type stores), but you’re still getting that brand name,” said Jesse Tron, spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers. Everyone but the very wealthiest shoppers will find the selection enticing, he added. “It’s going to be popular with anybody who’s looking for value,” he said. “And that’s typically all consumers.”
Full article: Outlets-at-Tejon-prepares-for-a-big-opening