Outlet malls continue to expand

May 15

Outlet Malls continue to expand in Japan and Mitsui and Mitsubishi lead the way with some 80% of the market. The malls are now so popular and generate such traffic, both from domestic customers and tourists, that more and more brands are opening outlet stores with much wider strategic intent than just to sell off old stock.

Mitsubishi Estate opened the latest iteration of its Shisui Premium Outlet Mall in Chiba in mid-April. The update added 62 new stores, which takes the total to 183, covering everything from luxury fashion through to a convenience store. Newly opened in Shisui is UK brand Traditional Weatherwear by Mackintosh, upscale outdoor wear brand Chums, and Chinese-American designer Vivienne Tam.

In 2015 Mitsubishi expects to easily exceed the 6 million visitors it attracted to the mall last year. Mitsubishi Estate CEO Takuo Yamanaka said he’d like to see Premium Outlet Malls become the country’s leading tourist attraction. Tokyo Disneyland may see 31 million visitors at one location, but across its entire chain, Premium Outlets is well on the way to attracting even more.

With footfall at outlet malls continuing to increase, their role is gradually changing. Increasing numbers of brands are now introducing items unique to their outlet stores and aimed at this particular type of clientele. Other brands have stopped seasonal sales at their main stores and in department store concessions, and only offer discounted stocks in outlet malls. Beams, for example, has 29 stores in outlet malls, and sells unique ranges alongside discounted mainstream lines.

The two main developers, Mitsubishi Estate and Mitsui Real Estate, continue to expand. Mitsui had 12 malls at the end of last year with sales of ¥287 billion, double the number of malls and four times the sales of 2003. Mitsubishi-Simon, Mitsubishi Estate’s outlet mall operating company, is slightly ahead with sales of ¥290 billion across just nine sites. Total outlet mall sales are estimated at ¥707.2 billion and are expected to grow 8% in the current year alone.