Fashion Outlets of Chicago Opens As National Mall Retailers Pin Hopes On New Retail Experiment

New Chicagoland Outlet Mall Could Mean Big Changes For Industry

A new high-end outlet mall concept that opened its doors in the Chicago area Thursday is being touted by its developer as a mold-busting experiment that could shake up the booming outlet mall industry.

The Fashion Outlets of Chicago in suburban Rosemont is a glossy mix of high-end retailers like Le Creuset, Barney's Warehouse, Bloomingdale's and Tory Burch with a dash of air travel-friendliness and art gallery cool.

Arthur Weiner, the chairman of the Florida-based outlet mall developer behind FOC told the Tribune the current outlet mall concept of factory-like stores in open-air malls typically found on the fringes of suburban corridors left a lot to be desired. Those desires, as Weiner sees it, are fulfilled by the $250 million, 130-store outlet mall that trades fluorescent lighting and concrete sidewalks for granite, marble and high-end stone finishes.

The mall will also cater to travelers, allowing them to print tickets and check their bags directly to O'Hare from the mall.

And while those factors set the fully enclosed outlet mall apart from its more far-flung competition, its biggest advantage is location.

Located near a Chicago El Line (shuttle buses will take shoppers from the station to the mall), adjacent to the city's O'Hare International airport and mere miles from downtown. By contrast, the next closest outlet mall is roughly 36 miles from Chicago in Aurora, Ill. The shopping center in Gurnee Mills near the Wisconsin border is roughly 45 miles miles out, while The Lighthouse Premium Outlets in Michigan City, Ind. is some 60 miles from the city.

Retail consultant Neil Stern tells WBEZ mall developers nationwide will be watching FOC's experiment.

Mall officials also note all the stores in FOC are true outlets and not regular retailers posing as outlets that have crept into many outlet settings.

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