The concept outlet here in Portugal seems to be of a different meaning to that in Sweden. In Sweden, going outlet shopping is something you do rarely, more commonly abroad and as a one off or an excursion. Here going to an outlet seems to be the way to shop.
It is noticeable here how malls are so empty from shoppers. Not that they are all empty, and not all the time, but there isn’t that constant flow of shoppers on the hunt all through the mall and during most hours. Often, it feels like a weekday before lunch pretty much all around the clock. The stores themselves are even more empty, with staff hanging around, standing, doing nothing, often forgetting to put music on since there is so little happening. Meaning as a scarce buyer you feel quite looked at and quite alone at the same time. An area that however does not seem to have any particular real slow hours, rather just very intense peak hours, is the food courts. And this goes for pretty much all type of malls. But as for the actual stores, it is really quite empty and it can really make you wonder how these stores even make enough to pay rent.
So discovering outlet malls here is a real energy boost. This is where the people are, this is where the real shopping is taking place, and surely, this must be where the stores make their money. Not to talk about the food courts, they are bursting with shoppers taking a break and refueling with energy.
Basically every store you can find in a normal shopping center can be found in the outlet malls as well, there really seems to be no discrimination, neither from the shoppers nor from the dealers. And the outlet malls are common. They are quite a few and not situated at a day trip distance, but rather, they are quite easy to get to, either with big city proximity or not seldom even in city centers. The outlet malls are, quite clearly a normalized shopping zone. This is where people go to shop their normal weekend shopping but also their Christmas shopping, they go for shopping sprees and whole day visits but also for single shop visits to get a specific item. There isn’t much of a rare adventure feeling about it all.
Except for the adventurous feeling of being able to shop. At all.
Cause really, the Portuguese economy is one that is quite shattered. The populistic vote deals with raising the minimum wage to a level that would make a Swede gasp. It is more common than not to be working two jobs, and sometimes three.
So, people shop in outlet malls because that’s where they can shop, not because it’s smart, but because it’s the only way. And the brands open up there not because it’s a smart way to get rid of last seasons left over stock, but because that’s where their customers are and therefore where they need to be to sell.