Toronto Premium Outlets, the gleaming new outlet mall in Halton Hills, has the same global brands, low-slung architecture and miles of parking as a major U.S. outlet centre—and the same massive crowds. We stopped by to see whether it lives up to the hype. Here, a tally of the mall’s best stores and biggest disappointments, plus a slideshow of our top 12 deals.
Most Important Distinction: high-end steals versus made-for-outlet duds
Unlike Ted Baker and Ports 1961, where we found steep discounts on high-end merchandise, other shops—including J.Crew, Brooks Brothers, Kate Spade, DKNY and Gap—were mostly crammed with diffusion lines (i.e. clothes made solely for outlet offshoots) with shabbier-looking products than we’re used to seeing from those brands. If you search extra-diligently you can sometimes find a clearance rack from the mainstream line.
Best Treasure Hunt: Hudson’s Bay Outlet
After some bewildered wandering through the vast outlet store–the first in Canada–we stumbled across a section near the cash registers devoted to The Room, the Bay’s high-end boutique. Jackpot: Alberta Ferreti, Armani, Balmain, Rodarte and Erdem, all between 70 and 90 per cent off.
Biggest Source of Toronto Pride: Ports 1961
Ports’s outlet boutique may not be as well-appointed as the the Bloor Street store that closed earlier this year, but it’s just as crammed with gorgeous garments from the Toronto-founded ready-to-wear label.
Most Common Complaint: U.S. versus Canada price comparisons
We heard several seasoned bargain hunters complaining that prices still don’t compare to American outlets—especially when you factor in the higher sales tax.
Most Confusing Addition: Ardene
The teen-centric store’s regular prices are already rock-bottom—so why does it need an outlet location?
Most Tempting Big-Ticket Items: Restoration Hardware
The furniture still isn’t cheap, but everything is at least 30 per cent off, and new items hit the floor all the time. It also offers a great excuse to sit on an overstuffed couch after a few hours of vigorous shopping.
Biggest Queue: Coach
The outlet mall mainstay has had a line-up outside nearly every day since it opened two weeks ago. If you’re not interested in waiting, the Hudson’s Bay Outlet also carries Coach bags and shoes.
Best Reason to Stay All Day: tons of amenities
While a day at an outlet mall will never be as relaxing as strolling in Yorkville or window shopping on Queen West, the developers have provided all kinds of conveniences, including free Wifi (for bored shopping buddies), clean washrooms, plenty of benches, stroller rentals and a play area for kids.
Biggest Barrier to Entry: lack of public transportation
There’s just one thing missing, but it’s a doozy: there’s no public transportation or shuttle buses out to the centre. Better sign up for that Zipcar account.
Toronto Premium Outlets, M–Sa 10-9, Su 11–7, 13850 Steeles Ave. W., Halton Hills, torontopremiumoutlets.ca