Simon, the nation’s largest developer of outlet centers, malls and mixed-use destinations, is venturing into e-commerce for the first time, WWD has learned.
ShopPremiumOutlets.com launches into beta test mode today, in an attempt to drive additional traffic to the “premium” outlet centers operated by Simon. It’s another channel for the brands and retailers in Simon’s outlet centers to generate sales, and for Simon to capture another revenue stream.
Simon’s portfolio includes several of the nation’s biggest and busiest outlet centers, notably Woodbury Common in Central Valley, N.Y.; Orlando Premium Outlets in Florida, and Desert Mills in Palm Springs, Calif. Other Simon properties participating in the test of the web site include San Francisco Premium Outlets, Las Vegas Premium Outlets, and Wrentham Village Premium Outlets in Wrentham, Mass. Simon Premium Outlets operates in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico and South Korea.
By logging onto ShopPremiumOutlets.com, consumers can shop many of the brands and retailers situated in Simon’s outlet centers, and obtain deals on fashion and home goods at up to 65 percent off regular prices.
“This is not your typical marketplace. The brands will be the heroes of the experience and will not get lost in the crowd,” said David Simon, chairman, chief executive officer and president of Simon.
While it’s widely perceived that shopping sites on the Internet siphon sales from brick-and-mortar stores, Simon has a somewhat different point of view. Company executives characterized ShopPremiumOutlets.com as “collaboration, not competition.”
According to Simon himself, the new web site will be “leveraging the powerful equity and consumer connectivity of our Premium Outlets platform to drive incremental traffic and sales for brands and retailers, both online and in our centers.”
Simon said the beta testing is restricted to the Simon VIP Shopper Club loyalty program, which has 4 million members.
“We’ve received significant interest from the brands and retailers currently in our centers and we’re on schedule to launch to the general public later this spring,” Simon said. “We’re beta-testing the platform with just under 2,000 brands and over 300,000 products, with more to come soon.”
Among those on the web site are Saks Off Fifth, Karl Lagerfeld Paris, Nautica, Aéropostale, Cole Haan, Wilsons Leather, Reebok, G.H. Bass & Co. and Skechers.
Orders made on Simon’s web site will be forwarded to the retailers and brands, which will be responsible for fulfillment.
The developer’s “pre-established customer base,” Simon said, “means it’s uniquely positioned to overcome the typical customer acquisition challenges in the e-commerce space.…Millions of people love shopping Premium Outlets, and SPO [Shop Premium Outlets] will offer them the convenience of discovering the best outlet deals, anytime and anywhere.”
Simon said consumer insights captured by the web site will be shared with the brands and retailers and that the data won’t be used to cross-sell shoppers, as other platforms do.
Simon will collect commissions based on the sales that the web site directs to the brands. There are no initiation, boost, monthly, minimums or other participation fees. On the web site each brand or retailer has its own “store.”
There is a personalization component that enables consumers to save their favorite stores, designers and offers in one place online, for easy access.
Simon sees “significant white-space opportunity for online outlet shopping leveraging our highly trafficked centers and loyal, engaged shopper base to drive awareness and build the business aggressively.” SPO is the company’s fifth platform, the others being malls, The Mills, International and Premium Outlets.
“The beauty of the site is that you can shop it however you want to, by brand, by designer, by trend, by deals, by stores — pretty much any way that works best for you,” said Chidi Achara, chief creative officer of Simon.
“It follows the format in terms of architecture and experience of a very sophisticated e-comm shopping platform and allows you to personalize the experience with your favorite stores and designers all in one place that you save, so the next time you dive back into the site. You can go straight to your profile if you chose to.…We are pretty confident we have a robust, intuitive easy-to-use platform,” Achara added.
There will be steady communications to shoppers on the web site including trend reports, deals, promotions and news about stores, designers and brands that are joining the site and opening doors in Simon’s outlet centers. SPO will be open to including outlet retailers that may not have a brick-and-mortar presence in any of Simon’s properties.
“We did a lot of research with our premium outlets brands and retailers and what we found often is that they feel more comfortable selling their outlet products through a marketplace rather than their own web sites to avoid confusion with their regular price business,” Achara said.
He said the SimonPremiumOutlets.com beta test will be very short and that the web site will open up to the broader public at some point in April.
“We see this as an omnichannel initiative,” Achara added, noting that to help stimulate traffic to the outlet centers, there will be offers seen online that can be redeemed in the physical outlets, in addition to offers for online shopping.
“We don’t see this as cannibalizing our physical centers,” he said. “We believe that the digital platform, by providing offers and incentives, will drive traffic to physical stores, as well as online. Consumers that shop the same brands digitally and physically tend to spend more and be more loyal.”
For consumers, the shopping experience is entirely on the SPO web site. They’re not lead to the web sites of retailers or brands. “We don’t see ourselves as a pure classic affiliate site,” Achara said. “Our platform is deeper and more robust than that.”
With the merchandise presentation, “We don’t edit,” Achara said. “We offer everything [the brands and retailers] are offering in their outlets. We are not editing or curating. We are simply enabling and facilitating those retailers and brands to use our platform.
“Ultimately we are trying to maximize the speed, ease and convenience of online outlet shopping by aggregating as many deals as possible in one place,” Achara said. “This is our first entry into e-commerce. We have done a significant amount of research with retailers and shoppers to determine what people want and need. We identified a void for an online shopping platform entirely dedicated to outlet products and brands.
“Shoppers are quite familiar with full-price shopping online,” Achara added. “We believe there is tremendous white space online connecting brands and shoppers who are entirely focused on outlet products and deals. This hasn’t been done before. It’s unique.”