Stephen Yalof Relevance of Shopping Outlets in a Modern Online Shopping Era

Tanger Outlets: The Relevance of Shopping Outlets in a Modern Online Shopping Era


Shopping is now dominated by online experiences, begging the question of whether retail shopping outlets are now a thing of the past.

However, with phygital, the blending of physical and digital shopping experiences, being a rising trend amidst the massive uptake of online shopping, the inherent “out phasing” of retail outlets becomes a disputed argument.

Tanger Outlets has a 42-year history of being an industry leader in branded in-person retail outlets, providing a unique on-brand customer experience for people shopping for unique products from specific brands.

Stephen Yalof, the company’s President and Chief Executive Officer, says that for the company and its outlets to remain relevant, it had to pivot towards customer experience in retail outlets instead of simply offering brands a space to sell unique on-brand items.

Stephen Yalof has a strong background in real estate, having worked, among many other places, at Ralph Lauren for 12 years doing real estate and helping drive the brand’s expansion to other locations globally.

He started working at Tanger Outlets in April 2020, at the peak of COVID-19 lockdowns and restricted movements that spelled doom for retail brands.

“We had retailers that weren’t sure whether or not they were going to reopen their stores. They had large investments in people, inventory, and leases. It was a mystery what would happen.”

So how did Tanger survive? What is it that the company and its partner brands do that makes them relevant at a time when most people are shopping online despite curfews and movement restrictions being lifted?

Stephen first ensured they had the approval to reopen immediately after the stay-at-home mandates had been lifted.

But that was not the only crucial bit. Tanger had to make a sharp pivot.

Stephen said, “We find ourselves now more in the experience business than we did in the past. We want to make sure that we’re curating a great experience for the shopper.”

Tanger has reinvented itself from a traditional retail outlet where you can find specific on-brand items into a location where you can enjoy multiple customer experiences while shopping for products from a specific brand.

Customers will be looking for something different from each shop and visit. Tanger is working closely with its partner brands, looking at consumer behavior data to determine what the consumer needs for every visit and how they can make the shopping experience better for them on the next one.

But there’s the big question of how relevant shopping outlets will remain in a rapidly evolving consumer world highlighted by online shopping experiences.

Stephen believes nothing can take away the feeling and experience of physically touching a product, seeing its shape, color, and other characteristics, and trying it out.

There are products that customers simply can’t buy online. And that’s the gap shopping outlets are filling.

Retail outlets are far from obsolete. One can argue that, for particular brands, they’ll become more crucial to the customer experience as the physical and digital shopping experiences start to merge.


Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist and the bestselling author of The Customer of the Future. For regular updates on customer experience, sign up for her weekly newsletter here.

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