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Diplomatic Ladies Go on Shopping Spree

While development on most full-priced malls has come to a halt, outlet centers are now the bright spot in the industry
By The News · 20 of July 2016 08:00:02
The Premium Outlets Punta Norte (POPN) shopping mall is located just north of Mexico City, No available, photo: The News/Simon Schatzberg

WOMEN’S WORLD

A group of foreign diplomats and their friends organized an outing earlier this month to the Premium Outlets Punta Norte (POPN) shopping mall just north of Mexico City.

The daylong shopping spree, which was sponsored by the mall and hosted by POPN marketing director Carolina Juárez Ceballos, including a light welcome breakfast courtesy of Starbucks, a goodie bag of gifts and VIP discount coupons for the participating outlets stores.

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Vietnamese Ambassador to Mexico Le Linh Lan (R) with Premium Outlet marketing manager Carolina Juárez Ceballos. Photo: The News/Simon Schatzberg

“There was a lot of interest among the diplomatic and international community in Mexico to get to know this outlet mall, so we decided to go as a group and spend the day shopping,” said Maite Martínez de Reyes, wife of former Honduran Ambassador to Mexico Roberto Reyes Mazzoni.

“And everyone likes a bargain, so we were particularly attracted to the special discount booklet we were given.”

And the ladies — who included Vietnamese Ambassador to Mexico Le Linh Lan, Farida Hadid, wife of Algerian Ambassador Rabah Hadid, and Ayesha Haqut, wife of Pakistani Ambassador Aitzaz Ahmed — were given the royal treatment at the outlets, with special hand massages and bags of hand cream, shampoo and body lotion from L’Occitane, makeup from Revlon, a keychain tote from Totto, glycerine soap from Neutrogena and more than 2,500 pesos in discount coupons from restaurants like P.F. Chang’s and Chili’s.

The ladies also were received by a delegation from Tlalnepantla de Baz (where the outlets are located) with a gift of a welcome packet containing a music CD by renowned Mexican singer Eugenia León, who is originally from that municipality.

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Farida Hadid, wife of Algerian Ambassador Rabah Hadid, left, and Ayesha Haqut, wife of Pakistani Ambassador Aitzaz Ahmed, check out the shoe bargains at Salvatore Ferregamo. Photo: The News/Simon Schatzberg

During the welcome brunch, the PNPO’s Juárez Ceballos explained that while online shopping may be taking a big bite out the retail pie that most traditional stores and malls had previously enjoyed, the outlet sector of Mexico’s brick-and-mortar retail sector is not only surviving the e-commerce competition, but thriving.

In the last six years, outlet malls have experienced a major resurgence and are rapidly becoming the in place to shop for bargain prices on high-end products, particularly fashion apparel, she said.

“Outlet shopping is becoming the most popular way to shop in Mexico,” she said, adding that the 170-store Punto Norte constitutes the largest outlet shopping mall in Mexico, specializing in luxury designer brands.

“It used to be that people would go to the big department stores or malls with boutiques to shop, but now people are discovering that they can have the same hands-on shopping experience at an outlet mall and find great products at very affordable prices.”

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Beatriz Osorio de Martínez, left, and Maite Martínez de Reyes couldn’t resist the handbag and accessories counters. Photo: The News/Simon Schatzberg

Moreover, she said, Mexicans who shop at outlets are spending more money than before.

In 2015, Juárez Ceballos said that the Premium Outlets Punta Norte mall registered a 6 percent increase in traffic (number of visitors), but a 10 percent increase in overall spending.

Part of the reason for the increase in sales is that the outlets themselves are revamping their image and merchandise to better accommodate their clientele.

“In the past, we used to cater to adults, who either shopped by themselves or in small groups,” Juárez Ceballos said.

“But now we are making our mall more family-friendly and offering entertainment and cultural experiences in the form of weekend concerts and art exhibits.”

In fact, the entire concept of outlet shopping has evolved from being a place for overstocked and damaged goods to be given one last Hail Mary pass at being sold to a much more upscale shopping experience, with 86 percent of merchandise being specially produced for outlet stores.

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Nancy Castillo, wife of former Honduran Ambassador to Mexico José Mariano Castillo Mercado, shows off a necklace that caught her eye. Photo: The News/Simon Schatzberg

Consequently, while development on most full-priced malls has come to a halt, outlet centers are now the bright spot in the industry.

Juárez Ceballos pointed out that Punta Norte has just added another 10 new shops to its mall.

Worldwide, outlet sales represent one of the fastest-growing commercial industries, and a recent study in the United States showed that most shoppers are willing to drive at least 300-kilometers (186 miles) roundtrip to cash in on outlet bargains.

In some places, such as San Marcos, which is located halfway between San Antonio and Austin, Texas, outlet malls are a the main attraction and main source of metropolitan revenue.

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The ladies display their purchases at the end of the shopping spree. Photo: The News/Simon Schatzberg

“Outlets in the United States have been around for over 20 years and are a big business and a big draw for shoppers,” Juárez said.

“But here in Mexico, they are relatively new. They have only been around for about 10 years, and there are only about a dozen outlet malls nationwide.”

Consequently, Juárez said, many people don’t know what to expect when they go there and many people still think that the merchandise that they find in the outlets will be shoddy or factory rejects.

“Basically, the items in outlets are the same as the items in regular stores, although they are usually one or two seasons older,” she said.

“But sometimes they are simply overstocked items and are virtually the same goods you can get at brick-and-mortar stores, at a much cheaper price.”

Juárez Ceballos said that smart outlet shoppers keep an eye out for big sales, like after Christmas bargains, and always check the back aisles, where the items with the must-go price tags are usually stashed.

The diplomatic ladies and their friends proved themselves to be extremely savvy shoppers, finding discounts at designer fashion, jewelry and even household goods stores, all coming away with their arms burdened with giant bags of purchased items and assurances that they would be back soon for more bargains.

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