Altoona Store Owners Hope Outlet Mall Will Increase Sales, Not Steal Them

ALTOONA, Iowa  --  Friday is opening day at the Outlets of Des Moines in Altoona.  Dozens of new stories could bring in a million shoppers or more in the next year.  Some existing shop owners in Altoona hope all the spending at the outlet mall doesn't come at their expense.

"We absolutely wanted to be proactive in that," says Melissa Horton with the Altoona Chamber of Commerce, "We understand that the bright and shiny new penny is going to be really popular for a very long time. But we also wanted to make sure we are offering our locals and residents really cool things to do with our `mom and pop` shops'."

The Chamber helped form a new club called the Altoona Retailer's Council.  The group works to find new ways to attract a changing customer base.  Altoona welcomes an average of 3.5 million visitors to years to its shops and attractions.  That number could climb to five million after the outlet mall opens.

"'They are going to bring a lot of business. They are going to bring a lot of jobs," says Anthony Baldzao, a manager at the Sports Page, "They are going to bring people in from further out to come into Altoona that probably wouldn`t come here before.  So as a company and community we are really happy they are going to be opening up."

Baldazo says he knows some of the shops at the outlet mall could sell the same products as his shop.  However he believes his customer service and community relations will keep his cash register busy.

"We've seen it before. We will always have competition our biggest competitor is online and we've been able to survive that and we`ll be able to survive this."