Kittery, Maine. USA.
Note: Posts through the summer focus on malls in or near vacation areas, mostly in the US I-95 corridor. The Kittery Outlets are about an hour north of Boston.
Kittery, Maine was one of the original outlet meccas, starting as a collection of stores and eventually commercialized into a street of shopping comprising several somewhat scattered buildings on either side of US Highway 1. Some buildings only have three to five outlets, others have 20 or more. And unlike other outlet meccas, the different buildings seem to have different owners, providing the area with more variety in appearance.
Kittery is also a perfect location for outlet stores: it’s about an hour or so northeast of = Boston (providing access to millions of shoppers) and just over the border from scenic seaside Portsmouth, New Hampshire, making it a perfect location for a day trip.
More personally, Kittery provided my first outlet experience.
Like pleasant memories from the past, they have only deepened through the years, meaning expectations have only been elevated despite visits to some of the best outlet malls in the world. The expectations dashed when I visited in the early 2000s. Compared to the Wrentham Premium Outlets just south of Boston, they appeared ragtag and driving from building to building to visit just two or three jobs seemed inconvenient. (Or perhaps I became lazy.)
My visit in the summer of 2013 left me with a different impression. Perhaps because I was introducing my life and shopping partner to Kittery, perhaps tempered by 10 more years of outlet mall visits, or perhaps because I was on vacation, I was impressed by the Kittery experience this time.
Some characteristics I found especially helpful:
- A large selection of stores, well over 100.
- Among the selections are outlets that one cannot easily find at most other outlet malls, including Premium-branded outlets (which tend to have the best selections of stores). These include Calphalon, Crate and Barrel (which seems to have closed many of its outlet stores), and Orvis (which also has a limited selection of outlets).
- For those seeking the outlet mall standards like the Gap Outlet, Polo, Brooks Brothers, and the outlet-mall-only Chef Collection, Kittery provides them, too.
- Kittery even features some one-of-a-kind stores selling merchandise from other manufacturers and retailers, such as the Kittery Trading Post.
- Many of the stores are actual outlets rather than factory stores. (An outlet sells discontinued and imperfect merchandise. A factory store often features products made especially to sell in the discount store, usually with styling and quality to match the lower price.) As a result, the mall features some unique finds not readily available elsewhere.
- Although driving from building to building can be a drag, walking is reduced. On a hot humid August afternoon or, worse, during a rainstorm, that’s a perk. (Note to fitness buffs: you can park once and walk from building to building.)
- Driving from building to building also encourages mission-focused shopping rather than browsing. That is, shoppers go to the stores that interest them rather than browsing past several stores that initially had no interest but because the shopper walked by it, they chose to enter and ultimately made an impulse purchase.
- One of the larger buildings has a coffee shop where one shopper can rest while the other looks for bargains.
Kittery also provides a wider variety of dining options than many outlet malls, which usually have limited-selection food courts with even rarer seating and a few stand-only food vendors.
In other words, Kittery not only provides what people expect in an outlet experience—lots of stores and bargains—but also unique experience that discount malls don’t. (And if you’re up for a day trip, set aside some time to stroll the charming streets of nearby Portsmouth, New Hampshire.)
Mall at a Glance
Anchors: Crate & Barrel, Kittery Trading Post (a store selling several brands), Orvis, Ralph Lauren.
National chains: Aeropostale, Brookstone, Children’s Place, Clark’s, Cole-Haan, Ecco, Hanes, Izod, Nike, Old Navy, Puma, Sunglass Hut, and Timberland
Variety of merchandise: Excellent, nearly everything except books, furniture, appliances, and entertainment.
Prices range from lower-middle to upper-middle ranges.
Discount coupon booklet available to AAA/CAA members in information office
Well rest-roomed. Many available and all seemed to be clean.
Food court: None. Instead, offers few eating outlets, mostly in free-standing or smaller buildings.
One place to note: Noel’s Café and Coffee House. Has an amazing seating area outside and coffee house. Has tables, rides, and is covered—so no one needs to worry too much about the elements in warm weather. For those worried about cold weather, however, Noel has lots of indoor seating.
Wikipedia page (focuses on the entire town, not just the outlets): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kittery,_Maine