You no longer have to trek to the outskirts of town for outlet shopping. Twin Cities Premium Outlets opens Thursday, Aug. 14 in Eagan. Expect big crowds. The center, which is almost entirely leased, features more than 100 stores including Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th, 7 for All Mankind, Armani, Coach, Cole Haan, Filson, J. Crew Factory Store, Michael Kors, Pendleton, and True Religion. It's big. It's much more inviting than outlet centers of yesteryear, from the sunny courtyard with adirondak chairs to the enclosed food court with fireplaces. Twin Cities Premium Outlets is a joint venture between Paragon Outlet Partners and Simon, which also run Albertville Premium Outlets.
Getting There. Twin Cities Premium Outlets is located at Highways 77 and 13 in Eagan (just minutes south of Mall of America). There are more than 3,000 parking spaces at the outlet center. For those taking public transit, the METRO Red Line stops across the street from the outlet center—it’s the Cedar Grove Station. (Download a pass for a free MetroTransit ride Aug. 14-17.)
Lay of the Land. Twin Cities Premium Outlets is an outdoor center with covered walkways. It’s set up in a racetrack-like design with a courtyard in the middle, and many smaller seating areas all around. You can't see all the stores from any one vantage point, so wear comfortable shoes—it's a definite walk to hit all the stores. (Saks Fifth Avenue Off Fifth is right off the parking lot for shopping emergencies.)
Dining. You'll work up an appetite hunting for all those bargains! The center features a food court with indoor/outdoor seating and a two-sided fireplace. The fast food options include Villa Fresh Italian Kitchen, China Max, Green Leaf’s Beyond Great Salads, Subway, and Starbucks. And it wouldn’t be a mall without an Auntie Anne’s Soft Pretzels and Great American Cookie Company.
The Deals. According to SmartMoney and Forbes, a whopping 82 percent of the merchandise sold in outlet stores is made for outlet stores. That means much of what you’ll find at the outlet mall isn’t really overstock or irregulars from a full-price store, rather, similar, but probably lower quality product. This is not necessarily a bad thing if you're hoping to get a brand name look for less. Just be aware that what you're buying may be cheaper in a different way than you expected. The outlet center advertises 25 to 65 percent savings every day, but keep in mind that you may never have paid that higher price. A good example of that is Wilson's Leather, which no longer has full-price stores, so everything is being manufactured for the outlet. Could they have sold that $39.99 peacoat for $200? Unlikely, since they produced it for the outlet store. If you're curious, try a price comparison app like RedLaser or ShopShavvy.
Outlet. Outlet? Not every store at Twin Cities Premium Outlets is truly an outlet. If it says “Factory Store” or “Outlet,” then you know you’re getting something different, probably lower-end, than you would at the mall. Some stores are outlets, like Coach, but don’t include it in their name. Others, like American Eagle and Francesca’s, seem to be virtually the same as their mall experience. Premium Outlets marketing director Emily Zimmerman says the outlet center requires stores to offer at least 25 percent savings. But that is likely the same sale you’d find at any other mall.
New to MN. One of the biggest pluses about Twin Cities Premium Outlets—besides its modern look and proximity to Mall of America—is the fact that many of its stores are new to the Twin Cities. Cole Haan, Filson, J.Crew Factory Outlet, and Movado Factory Store are just a few of the names you won't find at other outlet centers in Minnesota.
Additional Amenities. Free WiFi, an information center, stroller and wheelchair rentals, gift cards, added discounts for VIP Shopper Club members.
Grand Opening Weekend. Twin Cities Premium Outlets opens to the public at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 14. Weekend festivities, Aug. 14-17, will include live music, giveaways, refreshments, and an appearance on Saturday, Aug. 16, by Bobbie Thomas, style editor for NBC’s Today show, and author of The Power of Style. VIP Shopper Club members are invited to meet Thomas in the VIP Lounge Saturday from 12:45 to 1:30 p.m. and 3 to 3:45 p.m.