Still Shopping Despite High Gas Price: CEOs

Grove shopping center in Los Angeles
Grove shopping center in Los Angeles

Upscale shoppers and bargain hunters have one thing in common despite their economic difference — high gas prices aren't putting a dent in their appetite for shopping despite what some surveyshave recently said.

"Consumers love bargains," Steven Tanger, CEO of Tanger Factory Outlet Centers, told CNBC Wednesday. "They find bargains at Tanger outlet centers. In good times, they like a bargain. In tough times like these, they need a bargain."

The cost to drive to an outlet center "to save 25 percent to 30 percent every day hasn’t stopped people from driving. It’s well worth the trip," he said from the Telsey Advisory Group 4th Annual Spring Consumer Conference in New York.

Tanger has 60 percent of its outlets in prime vacation locations, so shoppers are always a drive away from a bargain. There will be two new outlets — one south of Houston and one west of Phoenix — that will be open in time for holiday shopping, the CEO said.

"We're builders. We're a growth company," he said. "We plan to deliver one to two new shopping centers each year."

The ones already open are 99-percent occupied, and the retailers who are most aggressive about drawing in customers are sports apparel companies including Under Armour and Nike as well as accessories companies such asCoach and Kate Spade. Jewelry is also doing well and CEO Tanger expects increases in women's apparel and juniors apparel.

Saks CEO Steve Sadove is observing some similar trends as well.

"We're feeling reasonably good about the economy and the market…is clearly a positive," he said in a separate interview from the Telsey conference. "The higher-end consumer is feeling reasonably good about themselves and to get to that level we have to continue topline growth."

With the credit crunch past and the erosion in credit card approvals reversed, Saks is now pushing its private-label credit cards, which offer shoppers special promotions — a factor Sadove calls "a differential in benefits" to those who use their diamond and platinum Saks cards over other credit cards.

So maybe the outlet shopper and the Saks shopper really do have something else in common — a taste for bargains.

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