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Few startup businesses see 4 million customers and $140 million in sales in their first year, but Nebraska Crossing Outlets is not your typical startup.

The Gretna outlet mall, which will mark its first anniversary Saturday, met and in some cases exceeded expectations the first year, said Rod Yates, who developed the 331,000-square-foot mall.

The 4 million visitors, an estimate based on traffic counts, is right in the middle of the 3.5 million to 4.5 million Yates said he was expecting. And $140 million in sales was at the high end of his projections a year ago.

Despite the fact that the Nebraska Crossing project was the redevelopment of an existing, smaller outlet mall, Yates said he considers it a startup business, and as with any successful startup, he's projecting rapid growth.

Yates said his goal is a 20 percent increase in sales in 2015, and a big part of the plan to achieve that goal is an expansion of the mall.

Yates announced plans in August 2013 -- three months before the mall opened -- to expand to the north with up to 100,000 square feet of additional space.

That plan has changed somewhat. Instead of adding on one big wing to the north, Yates now plans six different buildings totaling about 60,000 square feet around the perimeter of the existing mall.

The biggest is a proposed 24,000-square-foot anchor space next to Forever 21 and Old Navy.

"We want to bring in H&M," Yates said. The Swedish low-price fashion retailer opened its first Nebraska store at Westroads Mall in Omaha in September, and Yates said he hopes to attract the state's first H&M outlet store.

Other brands he said he's targeting for 2015 are North Face and Tori Burch, and he also has plans for a sit-down restaurant.

Yates said he's working with Gretna and Sarpy County officials and hopes to start construction on the buildings early next year and have some open by late summer or early fall.

Existing tenants will be another focus going into the mall's second year, as several want to expand, he said.

Under Armour already expanded, and the sporting goods retailer's Nebraska Crossing store is now its largest outlet store in the country.

Yates did not identify the other stores looking to expand, but he said there are 10 retailers at the mall that are targeting $1 million a month in sales.

Johanna Boston, the mall's marketing and operations director, said the athletic merchandise stores -- Under Armour, Nike and adidas -- have done extremely well, as have brands that don't have any other stores in Nebraska, such as Polo, Brooks Brothers, J Crew and Tommy Bahama.

"All the new brands to market have been really successful," Boston said.

How to find room for tenants to expand will be a challenge, because there is only one vacant space in the mall, Yates said.

A third focus next year will be more strategic marketing, now that the mall has a better handle on where its customers are coming from.

Yates said Nebraska Crossing draws primarily from a 200-mile radius stretching north to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, east to Des Moines, Iowa, south to the northern fringes of the Kansas City metro area and west to North Platte.

One of its strongest markets has been Lincoln, Boston said.

"Lincoln has been a phenomenal market for us," she said.

Boston said the mall recruited its newest tenant -- handbag and luggage retailer Vera Bradley, which opened Wednesday -- in part because of lobbying by Lincoln residents.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.


Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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