Although most households have cut back on indulgent spending, it appears that outlet malls in Florida are thriving. Throughout the state there are 15 outlet malls offering everything from designer luggage to clothing and sports gear, so wherever you may be living or staying, there is sure to be one near you.
One particularly busy outlet mall in Florida is Sawgrass Mills, the largest in Florida, located at Sunrise. This bright and airy mall has all the look of a designer mall, such as Bal Harbour just up the road, but at a fraction of the cost. Located on the edge of the Everglades, coaches pick shoppers up from their hotels and resorts on South Beach and Fort Lauderdale and transport them out to Sawgrass Mills for the day. Children can spend the day at Wannadoo City where they can be anything they want to be, from chefs to doctors, while parents trawl the 350 stores of the mall looking for bargains.
Usually the first thing seasoned shoppers do is stop at the Customer Service Desk and pick up a book of discount vouchers. For international visitors from South America and Europe, often the initial purchase is a suitcase so they can put all their other bags inside and tow it around for the day. Other outlet malls in the greater Miami area include the Dolphin Mall with 190 stores and the smaller Florida City Premium Outlets Mall at Florida City.
Those in southwest Florida do not have to travel across Alligator Alley to get to the Miami Malls; they have an excellent selection of outlet malls of their own. The largest is Miromar Outlets at Estero, near Fort Myers beach. This has 114 stores and 12 restaurants and is a great place to escape the summer heat in the middle of the day. Fort Myers Tanger Outlet is one of my personal favorites, out on Summerlin Road. It is not too big and has a good cross-section of clothing, shoes and other items including Coldwater Creek, Gap, Van Heusen and Vitamin World. Further south, Naples has its own Outlet Center on Collier Blvd.
Tampa and St Pete’s is served by the 112 stores at Ellenton Premium Outlets while Vero Fashion Outlets can be found on the central east coast at Vero Beach.
Those staying in the Orlando area have some of the best shopping options, and prices are particularly competitive for European visitors. Orlando Premium Outlets is a long stretch of 165 individual stores and small plazas at the north end of International Drive. There is literally nothing you cannot buy here, from golf equipment to beachwear and Lalique crystal to a home computer. The sister Orlando Premium Outlets is on Vineland Road near Kissimmee and it is open until 11pm Monday to Saturday and until 9pm on Sunday. The Factory Stores at Lake Buena Vista is almost overshadowed by these two rivals, but is still worth a visit.
Further north, outlet shopping is less prolific with two malls at St Augustine – the larger St Augustine Premium Outlets with 83 stores, along with St Augustine Outlets. For those visiting or living on the panhandle, the Silver Sands Factory Stores at Destin offers 96 stores and 6 restaurants, mainly offering clothing for men, women and children, and plenty of bargain beachwear. The smallest outlet mall of all in Florida is the Factory Stores of America at Graceville, on the FL/GA border. With just 11 stores, it is ideal for gift shopping with an art store, Paper Factory and Corningware factory store.