ELLENTON -- No matter the season, a parking space is always hard to find at the Ellenton Premium Outlets.
Don't expect odds on finding one to be any different when the Mall at University Town Center opens Oct. 16, just three exits south on Interstate 75.
The center does local, regional and global marketing to bring Manatee County residents and international tourists to the outlets, said Robyne Kintz, who oversees the Ellenton outlets as Simon Property Group's retail vice president for the South region.
"From a tourism perspective, throughout this summer we saw an increase of international visitors, particularly from Germany and western European countries,"
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While some of the stores will duplicate what can be found at the Mall at University Town Center -- Coach, Brooks Bothers, Michael Kors and Swarovski, to name a few -- the duplicity is in name only. Premium outlet, or factory, stores offer their own lines of merchandise that can't be found in the retail malls. Some still use their spaces to feature retired items from previous years at a steep discount. And then there's Saks Fifth Avenue's Off 5th that subscribes to both approaches.
"In terms of UTC's arrival on the local retail scene, really it is complementary," said Les Morris, director of corporate public relations for Simon. "We wish them well, but we are always in the same marketplace as regional malls. Sometimes the regional malls are ours."
But this scenario is a little different, with the regional mall coming after the outlet mall in a market instead of the other way around.
"It's atypical in today's landscape in terms of new ground-up regional mall construction, but it's not a new product," Morris said. "It's just the latest iteration of it."
Shoppers have different objectives and different types of shopping trips, and the typical shopper will find reasons to come to both. Both Morris and Kintz played up that the outlet offers everyday savings ranging from 25 to 65 percent off the suggested retail price in its 130 stores.
The Ellenton outlets this month are adding a few more reasons to shop there, too. ASICS will open its first Tampa Bay factory store Thursday at the Ellenton outlets. This will be the fourth Premium Outlets in Florida location for ASICS. The acronym for the running shoe company is derived from the Latin phrase "anima sana in corpore sano," or "a sound mind in a sound body."
The store will feature athletic shoes and apparel from ASICS and the company's lifestyle brand Onitsuka Tiger.
"ASICS is a hot athletic brand at the moment," Kintz said.
The store is also going to offer 40 percent off on the lowest price on apparel and buy-one get-one free on footwear for the grand opening, she said. Standard pricing will be 20 to 70 percent off the suggested retail price.
The food court is getting some new offerings. Fresh Burger is planning to open at the end of the month, while Ramo's Deli opened in May.
Crystal and China store Waterford-Wedgwood also opened at the outlets in April.
The center is also running other events in the next month to pull in shoppers. During October, shoppers can give a $10 donation to Susan G. Komen Florida Suncoast Chapter and receive a discount card for 25 percent off a single item from more than 50 stores, Kintz said. Other events during October include a Columbus Day weekend sidewalk sale, a discount day on Oct. 14 for shoppers older than 50, and a trick-or-treat celebration from 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 31.
As the Ellenton outlets and Mall at UTC look to attract drive-in customers from Tampa to Fort Myers, the outlets know there's room for both.
"We market to all shoppers," Kintz said. "I think consumers are very educated and value conscious."
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.