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A particularly virulent form of shopping mall.

Having originally come about in the early 1980's in the vicinity of Barstow, California, the outlet mall was a special kind of shopping mall:

Because it was so far from anywhere, everyone thought the prices MUST be good. And if you drove 5 hours to get there, you'd just about have to buy something.

This first outlet mall in Barstow was so successful, it made a few people very rich. Previously, the only reason for anyone not living in Barstow to get off Interstate 10 at Barstow was for a Whopper or a restroom break at the Burger King on your drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas (or vice versa). (The Barstow Burger King was rumoured to be the most profitable Burger King in the world).

Because of the ridiculous success of these early outlet malls, many more have sprung up in other middle-of-nowhere areas, like Costa Mesa, Wrentham, and Lee. And people still haven't figured out that the format of the outlet mall wasn't really desiged "so the savings can be passed on to you!", but maximizes profit by making people drive many miles to buy crap that would have otherwise rotted in warehouses.

Interestingly, all outlet malls appear to be of the "outdoor" design, where the connecting walkways between individual shops are open to the weather. This is unlike the vast majority of modern shopping malls that are built totally indoors - this design originated in the 1950's with Seattle's Northgate Mall, the first modern indoor shopping mall.


Yes, I did grow up in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California.

Factory outlet stores have been around since the 1800's when apparel and shoe mill stores on the Eastern seaboard began offering excess and damaged goods to employees. Eventually these mill stores opened their doors to consumers. In 1936, Anderson-Little, a manufacturer of men's clothing, opened the first "factory-direct" stores. These outlets were located in remote areas so they would not directly compete with retail stores.

In 1974, the first multi-tenant manufacturers' outlet center opened in Reading, Pennsylvania. In 1980 the first enclosed outlet center opened. During the 1990's, manufacturers' outlets ranked as the fastest growing segment of the retail sector, representing a $12.2 billion dollar industry with more than 300 centers nationwide.

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