By PATIENCE KRAMER (Contributing writer)
Outlet-Center Marketing teams captured the spotlight time and again at the presentation of ICSC’s coveted MAXI Awards, held in May during RECon. The MAXI Awards, established in 1979, recognize innovative events, programs and technology that are evolutionary and creative. The outlet industry walked off with two Gold and four Silver awards in six different disciplines within the three categories: Traditional Marketing, NOI Enhancement, and New Media & Emerging Technology.
Outlets of Mississippi
Though most marketing programs are, by definition, crowd pleasers, one MAXI category – NOI Enhancement – honors behind-the-scenes programs that are essential to generating revenue for shopping centers.
A MAXI Gold in the NOI Enhancement/Operations category went to Outlets of Mississippi, where developer Spectrum Capital worked with Strategy+Style Marketing Group to help the center qualify for the state’s Tourism Tax Rebate Program. The MAXI entry, “Singing the Mississippi Story to the Tune of $24 Million,” showed how their efforts resulted in the center obtaining a $24 million tax rebate from the state increased the center’s operating income and expanded its consumer reach beyond a 60-mile radius.
Strategy+Style started working with Spectrum Capital in 2012 and quickly realized that the center needed to be a recognized destination. With its central location in the midst of the state’s rich cultural history – encompassing music, art, the Blues Trail and world-famous writers – the center was poised to be more than an outlet center.
Strategy+Style and Spectrum Capital worked together to develop a compelling case for reclassifying the project from a shopping center to a tourism destination, and thus, eligible for that big tax rebate.
The 325,000-sf center opened in November 2013 as part of the Mississippi Blues Trail, with a 1,200-sf inline space where local artisans display and sell their wares, and a huge outdoor mural that traces the Mississippi Music Trail. Also, the Mississippi Development Authority occupies a 1,400-sf space that serves as a state welcome center. Karen Fluharty, Strategy+Style founder and partner said the award was meaningful because marketing was brought into a process that isn’t a typical marketing arena. “By allowing marketing a seat at the table in those early planning and development stages,” she said, “we were able to demonstrate what we can do as a team. We were able to show that we are strategic partners driven by sales and bottom-line profits.” “It was a team effort. Everyone helped everyone shine.” Ann Ackerman