When international tourists arrive in Orlando, their first stop is rarely a Disney property, but one of the city’s 500 factory outlet stores. And they’re looking for a very specific item: an empty suitcase.
According to Susan Lomax, the associate vice president of publicity for the city of Orlando, shopping has become the number one activity for international tourists visiting the city, drawn by the brand names at lower prices afforded by the country’s most concentrated city for outlets. And Lomax’s group, which watches the behavior of these visitors to their city as it increases its attention to shopping as a top tourism draw, reveals an interesting pattern of consumption. “They start in a luggage outlet,” she says, “They buy an empty suitcase and spend the rest of their visit filling it up.”
With enough retail space to fill 900 American football fields, it just might take that long. Orlando’s 500 outlet stores, 18 million square feet of gross leasable area of retail space in its major malls, a low consumer price index (97.8) and a low combined tax rate of 6.5%, Disney’s hometown is the No. 1 city on our first ever list of the Best Cities For Bargain Shopping.
Why scour the country for the best bargains? Because despite increased consumer optimism in the U.S. economy, new research from Symphony IRI’s Market Pulse underscores shoppers’ continued focus on maintaining the frugal shopping patterns made habit during the recession. According to the research, the “cornerstone to shoppers’ conservative behavior continues to be the deal,” even among the country’s most wealthy of shoppers. Bargain hunting behavior is on the rise: 26% of shoppers (and 20% of the nations’ wealthiest) are buying more discounted merchandise today versus one year ago.