NEW YORK — Horizon Outlet Centers, an operator of manufacturer’s factory outlet shopping centers in the Midwest and California, will expand its space by 32 percent this year.

“Our expansion plans have always been aggressive,” said Gary Geisler, Horizon’s chief operating officer, citing a 27 percent annual growth rate from 1991 through 1993 and the projected 32 percent rise this year. The company’s malls average “well over $200” per square foot, he said.

Horizon, based in Muskegon, Mich., went public in November 1993 and is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

The company has 10 centers in five states, representing about 1.7 million square feet of leasable space. This year, plans call for one totally new mall in a sixth state and a number of expansions at existing sites.

Factory outlet malls typically average about $240 in sales per square foot, compared with about $180 for traditional regional malls, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.

However, the regional mall figure is distorted because it includes sales per square foot of anchor stores, which generate much less than specialty store tenants, the ICSC said. When considering specialty stores alone, sales average nearly $300 per square foot.

Horizon’s newest project is a 200,000-square-foot center in Vero Beach, Fla., expected to open in November.

Unless otherwise stated, the malls are called Horizon Outlet Center. Expansions for 1994 include:

  • Gilroy, Calif., 177,100 square feet, opening in June.
  • Edinburgh, Ind., 129,000 square feet, slated for October, including a 30,000-square-foot Spiegel outlet opening in September.
  • Birch Run, Mich., 59,000 square feet, June.
  • Lighthouse Place by Horizon, Michigan City, Ind., 20,500 square feet, June.
  • Woodbury, Minn., 21,500 square feet, July.
  • Freemont, Ind., 61,000 square feet, September.

Horizon’s malls now include only manufacturers’ factory or catalog outlets, not department or specialty store outlets like Macy’s Close Out or Nordstrom Rack. However, Geisler said the company is in discussions with Saks Fifth Avenue for a possible Saks Clearinghouse operation, although no plans are firm yet.

Saks acknowledged that it has had conversations with Horizon, but said no plans have been made.

All apparel accounts for 60 to 65 percent of space at the Horizon malls. Women’s wear occupies about 40 percent of total square footage.

“The consumer wants more value, at all strata, not just in the lower economic brackets,” he said, “and manufacturers want to get their products directly to the consumer, so the outlet industry continues to grow.”

Geisler said some of the Horizon centers look like small villages, but most are set up like strip malls, to provide easy parking for consumers.”This is particularly convenient when a customer has a bulky purchase, like a set of china or furniture or other housewares,” he said.

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