The last time Steven B. Tanger made an official public appearance in the area, he helped break ground on the North Charleston shopping center that carries the family name.
Business: Tanger is a publicly traded real estate investment trust that operates, owns or has an interest in 43 outlet centers with 12.9 million square feet in 26 states and Canada. More than 2,700 stores operated by more than 470 brand name retailers lease space from Tanger, and more than 180 million shoppers visit the centers each year. Revenue was $357 million in 2012.
Bullish on S.C.: The Palmetto State is the company’s top market based on square footage. Tanger’s five South Carolina retail centers (including 2 each in Bluffton and Myrtle Beach) account for 15% of its portfolio.
Expansion plans: New centers are to open in 2014 in Charlotte; Mashantucket Conn.; Columbus, Ohio; Scottsdale, Ariz.; and Clarksburg, Md. Expansions are planned in Utah, Tennessee and Montreal.
Family affair: Stanley K. Tanger, the late founder, chairman and CEO, got into the shopping center business in 1981 based on his previous venture. He and son Steven B. Tanger had built a family-owned apparel-maker, Tanger/Creighton, that included five factory outlet stores. The younger Tanger joined his father in 1986.
Stock: Tanger Factory Outlet Centers sold shares to the public in 1993. They are traded on the N.Y. Stock Exchange under the symbol “SKT.”
That was 2005, two weeks before Thanksgiving. The site was the Centre Pointe property, near International Boulevard and Interstate 526. Tanger was then chief operating officer of Greensboro, N.C.-based Tanger Factory Outlet Centers.
“It will be a $45 million must-see regional tourist and shopping destination,” he said at the event.
Tanger Outlet Center opened the following year, giving the Charleston region its first taste of the outlet mall shopping experience.
Steven Tanger is now the CEO. He also has become the main pitchman for the business by appearing in his company’s television spots, touting “Tanger style.”
Earlier this month, Tanger received the Order of the Palmetto from Gov. Nikki Haley. He also took a few questions from The Post and Courier while visiting the North Charleston property:
Q: How is the North Charleston Tanger center doing sales-wise compared to others in the chain?
A: We like this center. It’s certainly in the top 25 percent of our shopping centers. We don’t disclose shopping center sales per-square-foot or actual ranking. In the past five or six years, the North Charleston center has increased every year in productivity, and the Centre Pointe area has certainly grown in the past five years tremendously.
Q: How are retail sales at Tanger during the back-to-school shopping season?
A: So far, it’s been great. We are very optimistic that when we get the sales reports they will be good.
Q: How do you perceive what retail sales in general will be like for the upcoming holiday shopping season?
A: I think they will be more robust than most people have imagined. There has been tremendous increase in value in most folks’ homes, which adds a perception of wealth. Those who have a job are saving more. There seems to be more employment, so the pie is getting larger. We feel very comfortable that outlet shopping will benefit.
Q: Any new big-name stores coming to the North Charleston Tanger?
A: We are in negotiations with several. We don’t announce any new stores until the lease is signed and they are about ready to open. The center is currently virtually fully occupied.
Q: Is there room to expand this outlet center?
A: We do have some outparcels. Right now, we have not decided whether or not to build additional phases, but we have room to expand. I’m not going to say whether it’s imminent or not.
Q: What’s your impression of the overall retail market in Charleston?
A: I’m not an expert in the Charleston area. We provide a unique shopping experience in a very nice environment that other parts of Charleston don’t offer. We don’t compete with local businesses. We are a regional shopping destination.
Q: What are your thoughts on enclosed malls?
A: I think the enclosed malls certainly have a place in retail. The finest enclosed malls are world-class assets that really can’t be replaced today. I don’t see mall developers announcing many new malls being built in the next couple of years. The existing malls are benefiting from some of the tenant expansions in their store count, and some of the better malls are filling back up. It’s a wonderful venue to go shop. Most of our tenants have full-price stores in regional malls and they have outlet stores in a Tanger Center.
Q: Why did you choose the advertising format where you appear in the commercials?
A: It was the cheapest. (Laughs loudly.) We had always branded our shopping centers Tanger Outlet Centers. We felt that in a retail environment that’s cluttered that having a unique shopping opportunity that’s branded would be a point of differentiation between us and other retail shopping centers. During the recession, our research showed that Americans wanted to support American businesses that were run by Americans and where there were real people behind the name. Based on that research I agreed to do our first ad in 2009. We have done four years of advertising. It has been extremely successful. People relate to knowing that there is a Tanger behind the Tanger Outlet Centers. Our sales have grown. Our traffic has grown. ... I think the ads have helped.
Q: You have 43 outlet centers across the country and in Canada. Are there any new malls on the horizon?
A: We have a new shopping center opening outside Washington, D.C., on Nov. 22. We are under construction on our new ground-up shopping center in Ottawa, Canada. We are building a large expansion in our shopping center north of Toronto. ... We have several expansions under construction, and we are marketing new shopping centers for delivery next year.
Q: What are your thoughts on receiving the Order of the Palmetto?
A: It’s quite an honor. I am happy to accept it on behalf of the 40,000 people we employ. It’s not an award for me personally but for the entire team at Tanger.