Judging by the crush of shoppers strolling the pretty, paved walkways and soaking up the sunshine pouring into a pair of grand piazzas that make you feel like you were in a majestic, European city, the opening day of the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet Mall near YVR in Richmond on July 9 was a success.
The constant ring of shopping tills at the 50 or so stores ready for business was also a dead giveaway.
But just how much of a success it continues to be will be based on the perceived value for money the mall is for shoppers who, last Thursday, crammed into stores — many toting away numerous store bags emblazoned with upmarket brands such as Ralph Lauren, Coach, Armani and Calvin Klein.
To try and gauge how good a deal the outlet pricing was, the News did some window shopping during the first few hours of business at the mall, then followed it up with a trip to Richmond Centre for stores carrying the same or similar products.
The outlet stores the News browsed included: Hugo Boss, Nike, Under Armour, and Skechers.
At Hugo Boss, the marked prices are discounted between 30 and 60 per cent at the till — except for fragrances. And according to sales staff all products are at least one season old — usually overstocked items which have been gathered from stores in the region and consolidated at the outlet for quick liquidation.
With that disclaimer aside, when it came to ties Hugo Boss proved to be quite a deal. The outlet's ticketed price was $84.99, before a 30 per cent discount.
The selection of ties at the Hugo Boss in Richmond Centre ranged in price from $100 to $125.
On suits, the discounts appeared quite large.
The outlet's price tag for a two-piece suit was $769.99, again with a 30 per cent discount yet to come.
At Richmond Centre, in-season suits were marked at $995.
Meanwhile, some outlet stores insist on customers bundling purchases for deep discounts. This was the case at the Under Armour store.
There, polo shirts were $70 for two with no discount for single purchases.
The Richmond Centre location of Sportchek was selling the equivalent Under Armour polo for $64.99 each.
You may pay more, but in the Costco mindset of buying in bulk, the outlet deal was quite substantial.
At the Skechers store, multiple buys came into play, too, thanks to a special "back to school promotion" on its Sport line of women's athletic shoes that retailed at the outlet for $72.99 — with a second pair at half price.
The Richmond Centre Skechers store did not have the same multiple sale deal, and the same pair of shoes had a price tag of $85.
But when it came to basketballs, the outlet mall's Nike store didn't slam dunk the competition.
The outlet price of $29.99 was just a shade cheaper than Sportchek's $34.99.
The slim price difference came despite the Nike outlet store clerk's assertion his store offers a minimum 40 per cent discount on comparable products.
So, while shoppers have to keep an eye on the prices to ensure they are getting outlet-sized deals, there is another set of eyes in place to police the prices, as well.
And that comes from the mall's management.
"We do (check pricing). It's actually part of all the brands' lease agreements," said Robert Thurlow, general manager of McArthurGlen at YVR. "It (discount) can be a mixture of that product in their store, as long as it equates to that minimum and maximum expectation."
Spot checks on pricing are done monthly for some stores, and quarterly for the larger ones.
And when they don't conform to those numbers?
"We have a meeting (with the store management), a discussion on how we get there together on the brand mix," Thurlow said. "But it's rare there are problems with pricing since most stores purchase their lines nine to 12 months in advance. So, the pricing structures are already set that far in advance."
One couple who figured they made out quite well on opening day at the outlet mall with their purchases was Richmond's Vibeke and Rob Lewis.
"I'm guessing we've saved $30 or $40, so far," said Rob who admitted he and his wife do make cross-border shopping trips for outlet mall deals, but were pleased to see competitive pricing right in their own community.
And will that make them stay at home and shop?
"I think so, especially if they (YVR's outlet mall) expands more and offers more shops. It will be more attractive and competitive than the outlet centres over the border," Rob said.
As for what they bought, Rob said he picked up a pair of Under Armour work out shirts that were two for $40.
The News' comparison shop at Richmond Centre's Sportchek priced a similar shirt at $27.99 each.
Also pleased with her shop was Vibeke who bought her Skechers — a different style than the News shopped for — at Richmond Centre on sale recently for $48 (normally $60).
At the outlet mall they were $42.95.
"I feel like I got a good deal. And I didn't have to travel far for it," Vibeke said.
Price Shop Comparison
Hugo Boss Ties
Outlet Mall: $84.99 with an added 30 per cent at the till
Richmond Centre $ $100 to $125
Outlet Mall: $459 with an added 40 per cent discount at the till
Hugo Boss Richmond Centre: $525 (on sale - regular price $750)
Outlet Mall: $769.99 with an added 30 per cent discount at the till
Hugo Boss Richmond Centre: $995
Under Armour Polo shirts
Outlet Mall: Two for $70
Richmond Centre: $64.99 for one shirt
Workout T-Shirts (Heat Gear)
Outlet Mall: Two for $40
Sportchek Richmond Centre: $27.99
Nike basketball $29.99
Sportchek Richmond Centre: $34.99
Skechers Sport athletic shoe
Outlet Mall: $72.99
Skechers Richmond Centre: $85