Along the west side of Interstate 35 in North Branch is an array of businesses, selling clothing, jewelry, home furnishings, shoes and more.
North Branch Outlets, formerly Tanger Outlets, has been in the city since 1992, selling a variety of wares to people in and around the community.
The mall still offers an ample amount of goods, but the owners and employees of the shops in the mall have noticed a trend in recent years: Sales aren’t quite what they used to be.
A less-than-robust economy could be to blame, or perhaps more people are being drawn to nearby big-box stores, the store managers and employees postulated last week.
Those store representatives included Dory Johnson and Julie Becker, of Christopher and Banks; Damon Patrick, of Van Husen; Alyssa Grassmyer, of Maurices; Jaime Schuna, of Rue 21; Michelle Hall, of L’eggs; Pat Anderson, of Gymboree Outlet; and Tawnya Norlander, of Wilson’s Leather Outlet.
Patrick, who has been working at the mall for about 18 years, said there used to be more community engagement surrounding the mall, like when Chisago County Relay for Life was held at the site and when Midsummer Days had its classic car show in the mall’s parking lot. He and others who work at stores in the mall hope that by engaging the community once again, it might spark more shopping at the mall.
Ideas were tossed around among store representatives last week about how to do just that.
Grassmyer said Maurices just concluded a clothing drive that was “super successful.”
The other store owners chimed in that it would be a good idea to do something similar at multiple stores in the mall and possibly offer customers discounts on their goods if they brought in gently used items to donate.
The same idea was brought up about a mall-wide food drive or possibly a couple of weeks when stores at the mall would collect school supplies and donate them to local school districts.
Johnson said it might be interesting to partner with the North Branch Area High School music program to host musical events at the mall.
“There were these North Branch kids singing out by the flowers outside one day,” Johnson said of her inspiration for the idea. “There were like three or four of them. It was really cool.”
Becker added that the mall currently has some special events customers might not even be aware of, one of which is the sidewalk sale coming up over the Memorial Day weekend. Discounted items — weather permitting — will be showcased outside of many of the businesses.
The stores are also allowed to offer these type of sales the last weekend of every month.
By engaging the community through different activities — whether it is food or clothing drives, concerts or other activities, North Branch Outlets is hoping to drum up interest in the mall again.
“Basically, as storekeepers, we need to figure out how we’re going to reach out and draw more business,” Johnson said.
For more information about the mall, visit www.northbranchoutlets.com.