The Franklin Mills Mall was one of the first outlet malls in the country. Its location in Northeast Philadelphia was unique among outlet malls when it opened in 1989. Most outlets were far outside city limits in converted manufacturing facilities, but Franklin Mills was just off Interstate 95. Its size — 1.7 million square feet — made it a destination for tourists; its proximity made it a destination for locals.
The outlet mall concept has changed over the past 25 years, thanks in part to the success of malls like Franklin Mills. Stores are no longer “pure” outlets, selling irregular or damaged merchandise and helping retailers purge their warehouses of overstocked items. Over the years, retailers have moved toward manufacturing or purchasing items specifically to fill the shelves of outlet stores. You might never see the merchandise that fill the shelves of an “outlet” location at the “official” department store.
So, owner Simon Property Group is making the mall over, reframing it as a “traditional” shopping mall. There will still be discount retailers — Saks Fifth Avenue’s Off Fifth, for example — and factory outlets, but there will also be more common mall stores and a new Walmart.
The world’s largest retailer is closing the store across the street from the mall and opening a larger store to anchor Franklin Mills. The 180,000-square-foot Walmart Supercenter features a full-size supermarket, something that mall management believes will attract more local shoppers, especially local shoppers looking for lower prices. The new store is slated to open by early fall 2014.
While there are vacant storefronts dotting the 1.2-mile-long concourse, leasing activity seems healthy. According to management, the mall is 89 percent occupied. When short-term leases are included, occupancy jumps to 97 percent.
By becoming a more traditional all-weather mall, Franklin Mills may regain its leadership status. Simon and mall management are planning ahead of the shopping curve and thinking outside the big box.
Source: The Inquirer (Philadelphia), “Franklin Mills reinvents itself as a more conventional mall,” Maria Panaritis, Dec. 26, 2013