Staten Island, long mocked as home to the world’s largest landfill, has suddenly become an international tourist destination, The Post has learned.
Since the Empire Outlets mall opened in May, hundreds of thousands of visitors from France, Germany, Denmark, Australia, Brazil and other countries have left the St. George Ferry Terminal and walked next door to scoop up bargains at Nike Factory, Levi’s and Nordstrom Rack, among 27 other retailers.
Overseas visitors now make up the bulk — or 65% — of all Empire Outlets spending, according to the city’s tourism bureau NYC & Co., which examined Visa credit card data. That’s helped push international spending on the island up by 47%, while total apparel spending has grown by 158%, NYC & Co.’s credit card data shows.
Prior to the mall opening, many visitors to Staten Island were merely taking the ferry to get a good look at the Statue of Liberty before turning right back around to Manhattan — a free ride dubbed as the “Staten Island shuffle.”
“Staten Island is one of the most visited boroughs, but the average stay is about five minutes,” said Travis Noyes, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the six-month-old outdoor shopping center, which has dramatic views of lower Manhattan.
Thanks to Empire Outlets, time spent on Staten Island has now grown from five minutes to closer to two hours, Noyes said.
Shopping is the No. 1 activity for overseas visitors, followed by sightseeing, according to NYC & Co.
Still, the surge in overseas shoppers on Staten Island comes at a time when other city retailers have suffered from a slowdown of wealthy Chinese visitors to the city. Retailers from Tiffany & Co. on Fifth Avenue to Macy’s in Herald Square have cited weakened spending by international tourists for their sagging sales in recent financial updates.
Tourists interviewed by The Post said they’ve chosen Empire because it’s convenient to the ferry, and they love a good deal.
Some visitors boarded the ferry with the intention of discount shopping, while others say they were lured into making the pit stop after they were handed pamphlets in the lower Manhattan ferry terminal by Empire Outlets greeters.
Pernille and her husband Brian from Copenhagen said they were “very surprised” to find shopping in Staten Island.
“Our friends were here two years ago and they told us there is nothing to do on Staten Island,” Pernille told The Post on Wednesday at the waterfront center, where she scooped up a jacket for herself at Guess Factory.
But Miguel and Ariadna, a young couple from Barcelona, made a beeline for the mall, knowing in advance that they wanted to go to the Nike store, where they spent $200 on three pairs of sneakers and several shirts and socks.
Ariadna said they’d thought about going to Woodbury Common Premium Outlets in Central Valley, New York, but decided it was “too far” for them.
Mette of Denmark said she was happy with the bargains she found at the Levi’s store, where she estimated saving about $150 on a pair of jeans and several T-shirts with the Levi’s logo.
Claudia from Sicily said she and her family were fully intent on hopping on the next ferry when they received the bright red pamphlets for Empire and made a last-minute excursion to the shops. They left with full shopping bags from Nordstrom Rack.
For now, Empire Outlets is attracting anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 visitors a day, and that’s without the benefit of most of its yet-to-open restaurant and bar attractions, which are expected to further increase the amount of time — and money — visitors spend on the island.
A 600-seat beer garden overlooking the harbor, as well as a Japanese steak-and-sushi sit-down restaurant, Wasabi, will open in the spring. Also opening next year will be an artisanal food market with indoor and outdoor dining options.
The food additions are expected to increase visitors by 25%, Noyes said.
Of course, none of this would be possible without the ferry, depicted as a working-class transportation option in the opening scene of the 1988 flick “Working Girl,” starring Melanie Griffith.
The surge in ferry ridership, which has increased by 5 million over the past decade due in large part to tourism, was a chief reason for locating the mall there, said Joseph Ferrara, one of Empire’s principals.
“We knew that this development would be a game-changer in visitation to Staten Island,” said Fred Dixon, chief executive of NYC & Co.
Original story: https://nypost.com/2019/11/28/empire-outlets-mall-boosts-staten-island-tourism/