Estero outlet mall remains popular during unprecedented times.
Christmas came early for Miromar Outlets. In the midst of this summer’s COVID-19 shutdowns, Estero’s outlet mall received a gift, bestowed by TripAdvisor on behalf of thousands of happy shoppers: a 2020 Traveler’s Choice Award.
This prestigious award signifies that Miromar Outlets ranks among TripAdvisor’s top 10 percent of attractions worldwide, based on the quality and quantity of guests’ reviews and ratings.
“TripAdvisor is the gold standard because it is based on customer reviews,” explained Margaret Antonier, CEO and president of Miromar Development and the visionary behind the outlet mall’s design and construction back in the late 1990s. She was honored with induction into the “Hall of Fame” in 2011 by the Council of Developers of Outlet Centers and Retailers.
“While it is always nice to be recognized by your peers in the outlets industry, I find the ‘Hall of Famer’ tag to be a bit of an exaggeration,” Antonier said. “I just see myself as one of many people around the country who have worked hard over the years to make our industry the success that it is today.”
The TripAdvisor recognition comes at time when the global pandemic has crushed several, already-struggling retailers. Nationally, more than 14,000 stores either have closed or will close by the end of 2020 in what many are calling “the retail apocalypse.”
The pandemic isn’t all to blame; the retail industry has been struggling in recent years as online shopping has grown more popular. COVID-19 further squeezed retailers with its temporary shutdowns, followed by social distancing regulations, and customers who may still be reluctant to venture out.
Miromar has not been unaffected. Big-name brands that have closed this year include Neiman Marcus Last Call, Justice, New York & Company and G.H. Bass Shoes. Izod and Van Heusen are also on their way out. Still, Miromar remains a popular shopping destination for locals and tourists alike, attracting more than 8 million visitors annually.
And new stores are opening to replace those lost. In October, Furniture Factory Direct opened in a 28,000-square-foot space, offering indoor and outdoor furniture plus art, home accessories, unique textiles, mirrors and more. Salt Life also opened a new store at Miromar during the pandemic, and recent store expansions include Bath & Body Works, Michael Kors, Levi’s, Sketchers and Under Armor.
“In spite of these unprecedented times, I remain optimistic that retail will definitely be back, albeit with a greater focus on the more viable centers,” Antonier said. “Location and the overall shopping experience will be more important than ever. This has always been our primary focus.”
A few years ago, Miromar revamped its children’s play area and added two rock-climbing “FunWalls” suitable for both children and adults (temporarily closed due to COVID-19).
Miromar offers year-round events and entertainment, which can be found on its online calendar () and an array of restaurants with both indoor and outdoor seating. There’s also a weekly farmers market every Friday.
“We see ourselves as a place for our community to shop, dine, get healthy and be entertained,” said Miromar Outlets Vice President Jeff Staner.
Among the mall’s attractive features are fountains, families of Pekin ducks, koi and turtles, benches for resting and covered, open-air walkways. And then there are the deals. Stores at Miromar Outlets offer 30-70 percent off retail price on top designer names, Staner added.
“I have always felt strongly that you should give people an enjoyable shopping experience, both in terms of the ambience and the savings,” Antonier said.
One shopper from Nebraska gave this glowing review on TripAdviser: “This is a beautiful mall with lots of fountains and greenery and beautiful architecture all around. You would think it was a high-end mall and not an outlet.”
That review is among more than 1,700 left on TripAdviser, with the majority ranking Miromar Outlets as “excellent.” TripAdvisor, an online travel company, is used by travelers worldwide to see reviews and rankings of 8.7 million businesses all over the globe.
“The Travelers’ Choice Award is the benchmark for our business because it’s based on shoppers’ reviews,” Staner said. “Winning this award means we’re creating a great shopping experience for our customers who come from all over the world.”
Positive reviews abound from international tourists. A German visitor wrote: “Big, huge selection, good prices. Every time worth a visit. What more should I write? In my opinion the best outlet in Florida.”
A Canadian reviewer added, “My wife and I recently spent the better part of a day wandering through this very good outdoor outlet mall. Some great selection of stores and deals and a comfortable and enjoyable shopping experience. Worth the drive.”
During the holiday shopping season, Miromar Outlets will open as early as 9 a.m. to accommodate the influx of expected shoppers. “Black Friday” deals will continue through Christmas Eve, and all stores and restaurants will eliminate activation fees for gift cards, Staner noted.
Miromar’s leadership expressed gratitude to guests from around the globe who have taken the time to write reviews of their outstanding experiences at the outlet mall. From its opening in 1999, Miromar Outlets has strived to provide a distinctive shopping experience. Judging by its recent reviews on TripAdvisor, Miromar continues to achieve that goal.
“Miromar has always been focused on a more appealing design along with pleasant areas enhanced with landscaping, fountains, sitting areas, etc.,” Antonier said. “This, combined with well-recognized name brands, creates a great atmosphere for all shoppers, regardless of income level.”
By Craig Handel