Your NPR news source

Multi-million dollar retail experiment opens by O’Hare

Developers say with art installations and services for travelers, this indoor mall will change all outlet malls.

SHARE Multi-million dollar retail experiment opens by O’Hare
Multi-million dollar retail experiment opens by O’Hare

Unlike most other outlet malls, this one is indoors and features art installations. Developer Arthur Weiner says this could be the future of outlets.

Photo courtesy of AWE Talisman

A retail experiment opens Thursday in Rosemont near Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

Most outlets are in remote areas, but the Fashion Outlets of Chicago is next to the Kennedy Expressway, the airport, and not too far from downtown Chicago.

Retail consultant Neil Stern says mall developers nationwide will be watching this experiment.

“Not only is this the most well connected outlet mall in Chicago, it might be the most well-connected outlet mall in the country,” Stern says.

Unlike traditional outlet malls, this one is indoors, features art installations from a group of 11 artists, and services for travelers. For example, flyers can print boarding passes and check bags directly to their flight from the mall.

But these amenities come at a price: more than $200 million.

Stern says the experiment comes at a time when outlet malls are growing quicker than traditional malls. He adds that if it pays off, we could see similar developments around the country.

Developers say this outlet is meant to function differently than other outlets. Retailers and manufacturers used to build outlets either to get rid of merchandise they can’t sell, or separate the customers who will pay a premium for cutting edge products and those will travel to buy for the same brand at a lower price, says Jean-Pierre Dubé, a marketing professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. That’s why outlets aren’t particularly close to major cities.

Stern says manufacturers now have a different reason to sell at outlets -- they want direct access to their customers for greater profits. He points to companies like Coach, Apple and Tiffany, businesses that rely on selling directly to customers and as a result, became some of the most successful retailers.

Arthur Weiner, chairman of Fashion Outlets of Chicago developer AWE Talisman, agrees. He says the artwork and other services not found at other outlet malls give businesses a greater opportunity to show brand pride. He also sees this as the outlet to change all outlets.

“The product that was being presented in America was a very stale product, outdated, underdeveloped, didn’t have the ingredients that consumers wanted,” Weiner says. “When we were presented with the opportunity for this piece of exquisite dirt, we saw the vehicle for the change that we thought was necessary for outlet shopping.”

Alan Yu is a WBEZ metro desk intern. Follow him @Alan_Yu039

The Latest
Liesl Olson started as director at The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum earlier this month. She joins WBEZ to talk about her future plans for this landmark of Chicago history. Host: Melba Lara; Reporter: Lauren Frost
The city faces criticism for issuing red light camera tickets at intersections where yellow lights fall slightly short of the city’s 3-second policy. And many traffic engineers say the lights should be even longer.
There was a time Chicago gave New York a run for its money. How did we end up the Second City?
Union Gen. Gordon Granger set up his headquarters in Galveston, Texas, and famously signed an order June 19, 1865, “All slaves are free.” President Biden made Juneteenth a federal holiday last year.
As the U.S. celebrates the second federal holiday honoring Juneteenth, several myths persist about the origins and history about what happened when enslaved people were emancipated in Texas.