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Shopping With an Outlet Flair

Mothers and daughters, friends and family are invited to make it a full “shop-til-you-drop” day at the Outlet Shops at Castle Rock’s Shopping Extravaganza.

Mothers and daughters, friends and family are invited to make it a full “shop-til-you-drop” day at the Outlet Shops at Castle Rock’s Shopping Extravaganza.

The growth of Outlet centers has made headlines and has topped the list of “national retail trends to watch.” The International Council of Shopping Centers reports another 26 centers totaling 10.8 million square feet are planned for 2016. This rapid expansion makes the sector one of the retail industry’s fastest growing. 

So what’s driving the boom – especially as shoppers shift increasingly to the Internet?

One reason is that chic brands like Michael Kors, Coach, Vera Bradley and Ralph Lauren are discounted, attracting price conscious shoppers. But outlet developers say there’s more to it.

Newport Beach-based Craig Realty Group is the nation’s third largest outlet center developer with 13 centers including three in Colorado. Company spokeswoman Chelsea Hartnett explains that part of an outlet’s appeal is its comfortable distance from congested metropolitan areas. “They’re just an easier destination to access,” she says.

Likewise, Consumer Reports notes that outlet centers have become expert at holiday festivities, – specializing in carolers, cocoa and photo-snapping elves. The Outlets at Anthem mall in Phoenix, for example, drew crowds with its 115-foot Christmas tree one year – 39-feet taller than the tree at Rockefeller Center.

Here in Colorado, the Outlets at Castle Rock mall has found its own way to stand out in a competitive retail world. Marketing Director Andrea Nyquist, like her industry counterparts, is preparing to host the 11th annual “Outlets at Castle Rock Shopping Extravaganza.”

The concept benefits 20 or more nonprofit organizations – from south Denver to Southern Colorado. More than 100 shops and restaurants participate along with volunteers from various nonprofits and off-duty employees.

“Last year we raised $45,000 in a single day. That means a lot, especially for some smaller nonprofits,” she says, adding that this year’s event takes place on Saturday, September 17.

Beginning in June, participating groups are asked to sell tickets for $25 each – 50% of which goes to the nonprofit. Ticket holders enjoy live music (including a past Colorado Springs Philharmonic-sponsored quartet), a complimentary box lunch, dessert bar, photo booth, prize drawings and of course, very special discount deals. Shuttles run all day and cars fill the center’s parking lots – especially early in the day. 

So what’s in it for shoppers? 

Nyquist provides tempting examples from last year – including an extra 30% off a Not Your Daughters’ Jeans purchase, special deals at Restoration Hardware or $50 off a Coach purchase of $250 or more. “We ask our stores to make it compelling – and they’ve stepped up every year,” she says. 

A few men from Special Olympics or the Castle Rock Senior Center have worked at registration. And the shoppers are often memorable.

Nyquist recalls that one woman she talked to makes the Shopping Extravaganza her annual pre-holiday shopping visit. “Along with shopping, she enters the prize drawings and wins store gift cards that she uses for holiday presents,” she says. Another woman took time to write a thank-you letter to the entire Outlets at Castle Rock staff after the event “for the best mother-daughter day we’ve had in a long time.” 

“It’s an adrenaline rush for us,” she says, “and for shoppers it’s a ‘win-win.’”