MERRIMACK — Eight years after preliminary talks about bringing a massive outlet shopping center to the area began, officials celebrated the opening of a 100-store facility that has made Merrimack a destination.
Merrimack Premium Outlets opened its doors Thursday to eager shoppers, thunderous applause and tons of great sales. Owned by Simon Property Group, the upscale outlets sit on 170 acres along Industrial Drive. Shoppers said they are impressed with the beautiful architecture, layout and simplicity of the shopping facility, which has a New England feel.
State and local officials were on hand to welcome the $100 million outlet center into New Hampshire.
“What was once a rock hill is a real destination, and a place on the map. That is important for this community,” said Mark Silvestri, executive vice-president of real estate for Simon Property Group. “We've added real revenue. It is a sense of place now.”
Not only does Merrimack Premium Outlets add jobs to southern New Hampshire, but it also increases the tax base and helps to improve the economy, Silvestri said of the state-of-the-art, 410,000-square-foot shopping center.
Hundreds of customers arrived early, excited to get a sneak peek at the shops before they opened at 9 a.m. Thursday. Lines wrapped around various stores, including Coach Factory, Tommy Hilfiger and Under Armour, before doors were unlocked.
Simon representatives estimated that about 100,000 shoppers will flock to the new outlets during the four-day opening celebration, which continues until Sunday.
“So far, everything is going very smoothly,” said Elaine Devine, general manager of the facility. “It is so rewarding hearing people tell me just how surprised they are by the beauty of the outlets. We really tried to capture the local community here by incorporating New Hampshire architecture and granite into the design.”
Town Manager Eileen Cabanel said it truly feels like a small shopping village.
“It is absolutely amazing to see how many people are already here,” she said Thursday morning.
Extra police and security officers oversaw a specialized traffic plan to help motorists quickly get off Exit 10 of the F.E. Everett Turnpike and into the outlet's parking lot.
Despite a demonstration by about 50 union-affiliated tradesmen and construction workers protesting the lack of New Hampshire workers used to build the outlets, officials said they were pleased with the first day of operations.
“It was a long journey to get here,” said Danielle DeVita of Simon Property Group, explaining the vision has finally become a reality. “This is not a typical outlet. This is a first-class, beautiful premium outlet center with the best tenants in the business.”
One of those tenants includes Bloomingdale's The Outlet Store, which is offering $25 off any purchase of $50 for the next few days when customers provide an email address. It is the first Bloomingdale's to be built in New Hampshire.
Arnie Orlick, senior vice-president of Bloomingdale's, said his store will offer customers great fashions, the best of brands and incredible savings.
“We are very excited, and anxious a bit,” he said prior to the opening. The perk of New Hampshire's no sales tax will be a boost for business, he said.
Grand opening hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.