Byline: DAVID MOIN
NEW YORK -- Most outlet shoppers are repeat customers who don't mind traveling an extra distance for sharp prices, according to the Developers of Outlet Centers and the Manufacturers Idea Exchange.
Last May, the two trade groups surveyed 8,830 shoppers in 88 outlet centers in 39 states. Now they're toasting the results.
"Overall customer satisfaction with the outlet shopping experience was exceptionally high, with 93 percent of the shoppers planning to return to outlet centers across the country," said William H. Carpenter, president and chief operating officer, Prime Retail, a Baltimore-based outlet developer.
Carpenter chairs the D.O.C.'s customer satisfaction committee and released findings from the survey at a press conference here Tuesday. The data was compiled by an independent market research firm, Hollander Cohen & McBride, based on exit interviews of shoppers who made a purchase. Among the findings:
Eighty-seven percent of those surveyed said the savings were worth the average 45-minute travel time; 79 percent of the first-time shoppers said the savings were worth the trip, and 90 percent of the repeat shoppers said the same.
Seventy percent were repeat shoppers and 30 percent were first-time outlet shoppers. Of that 30 percent, many were tourists. That's a segment outlets could market to more, Carpenter said.
Fifty-seven percent said prices met their expectations and 27 percent said prices were lower than expected, but 16 percent said they were disappointed by the prices.
Outlets centers are composed of manufacturer stores selling their brands at discounts. They must be located outside urban areas so they don't undercut regular-priced metropolitan malls selling the same brands. The outlets involved in the survey were typically located at least 30 miles from major metro areas. The survey could help cast a brighter image on an industry sometimes perceived as discounting inferior goods that couldn't be sold through traditional retail channels.
According to Carpenter's statistics, the U.S. outlet industry did $10 billion in sales last year.