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VOL. 114 | NO. 69 | Monday, April 10, 2000

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Popularity of Tunica outlet mall prompts expansion Popularity of Tunica outlet mall prompts expansion By LAURIE JOHNSON The Daily News For the past six months, people have been heading to Tunica County to do more than just try their luck or see their favorite entertainer. Theyve been going to bargain hunt for discount-priced clothes, books, shoes and other household wares at the Mid-Souths newest outlet mall. Casino Factory Shoppes opened Thanksgiving weekend with 17 stores. Since then, sales have been so strong plans are in the works to expand the mall in time for next years Christmas shopping season. "Things have been going better than even the retailers had projected," said Janet Grady, president of The PRISM Co. Inc., the marketing company for the center. "Sales have been outstanding, and they continue to improve." Casino Factory Shoppes, located in Robinsonville, Miss., at U.S. Highway 61 and Grand Casino Parkway Extension, is owned by a Mississippi-based ownership group headed by Charles N. White, chief executive officer of White Construction Co. of Clarksdale, Miss. "The fact that this is a nearby community-based ownership group has really kept the focus on the community," said Lane Southern, attorney with the Memphis law firm of Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, which represents the ownership group. "They are all local residents, and are able to see the impact its having on the area. Theyre willing to do what it takes to develop a first-class center." Weston Cos. of Memphis handles leasing and management for the center. The outlet mall opened Nov. 26 with 17 stores, including Casual Corner, Linen Barn, CHAPS Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Warnaco, Kitchen Collection, Samsonite, Hit or Miss, Rue 21, Bugle Boy, Factory Brand Shoes, Big Dog, Chicago Cutlery, Van Heusen, Bass Shoe, Carters Childrenswear, Book Market, Rack Room Shoes, Paper Factory and Leggs Hanes Bali Playtex. Some of these tenants sales revenues already have surpassed their counterparts in some of the top outlet malls elsewhere in the United States, Grady said. Sally Fields, manager of Hit or Miss, a womens clothing store, said business has been brisk since the store opened. "We have a lot of people from Memphis who come down to see what weve got and to see if it is different or cheaper," she said. Market research has indicated about 60 percent of the outlet malls customer base comes from Memphis, as well as nearby Mississippi communities such as Southaven, Clarksdale, Hernando, Senatobia and Walls, Grady said. Communities south of Memphis but north of Tunica dont have easy access to a large, regional mall or shopping center. The only other outlet mall in the area is in Batesville, Miss., which is farther south on Interstate 55. "We expect, however, to see more of a shift toward 50-50 in the summer vacation months, as more tourists come into the area," Grady said. Outlet malls tend to do very well near the nations tourist destinations, such as Pigeon Forge, Tenn.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Branson, Mo.; and Destin, Fla. About 10 million tourists are expected to visit Tunica County this year, with an average stay of two to three nights, according to the Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau. According to the survey, 60 percent of the areas visitors were couples between the ages of 21 and 54, with household incomes of more than $50,000. Almost 90 percent return to the area within six months. In casino markets, shopping has been found to be one of the top forms of entertainment, after gaming and musical performances, Grady said. "Theres a need, after a certain number of hours, to get out and get some fresh air and do some shopping," she said. Since opening, Casino Factory Shoppes tenant roster has continued to grow. New tenants include Disney Blowout, Calvin Klein, Olga/Warner and Speedo. Last weekend marked the opening of Dress Barn and Dress Barn Woman. "Weve been fortunate in that weve kept opening stores," Grady said. "It has helped us tremendously that we opened so strongly, and that we had some nationally well-known names in our mix." The absence of competition in the area the closest retail center is almost 15 miles away also has helped, she said. To make room for up to 40 more stores, an 80,000-square-foot expansion is planned for the 137,000-square-foot outlet mall, with an opening date scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving. The new addition will be anchored by a number of upscale retailers of mens and womens clothing, sporting goods and athletic wear. "These are some of the merchandise categories that we recognize need to be filled," Grady said. Eventually, Casino Factory Shoppes will encompass 350,000 square feet of retail space, almost triple the amount it has now. The centers ownership group owns or has options on about 40 acres of land at the site. "When we open Phase II, most likely we will go in and begin leasing and construction on Phase III," Grady said. She said the tenant mix of Casino Factory Shoppes eventually will be similar to that of the Silver Sands outlet center in Destin, Fla., a sprawling complex offering everything from discount books, cookware, luggage and jewelry to designer items by Donna Karan, Coach and Jones New York. Not surprisingly, the outlet mall has enjoyed the support of the areas gaming industry. Tunica Countys nine casinos have entered into partnerships with Casino Factory Shoppes to promote the outlet mall. Some of these promotions have including in-television advertising, comping CFS gift certificates to casino patrons, themed tie-ins with entertainers and major conventions and free trolley shuttles between the casinos and the outlet mall. Casino Factory Shoppes is partnering with Horseshoe Casino Hotel May 7 to host a fashion show, the proceeds of which will be donated to Le Bonheur Childrens Medical Center. The event will start at 3 p.m. in Bluesville in the Horseshoe casino. Tickets cost $25, and will include the fashion show and refreshments. For reservations, call 662-357-9236. "We have done very well in this area, and we want to give back to the community that has been so generous to us," Grady said.
PROPERTY SALES 56 94 12,852
MORTGAGES 23 50 8,053
BUILDING PERMITS 285 422 30,356
BANKRUPTCIES 23 67 6,131