Have a good time in Greater San Marcos.
Destination Attractions leverages world-class shopping at the region’s outlet malls, natural assets, downtowns, historical districts, and activity centers in the City of San Marcos and other Hays and Caldwell cities.
A key component of the Destination Attractions target is the presence of two adjacent San Marcos outlet malls, San Marcos Premium Outlets and the Tanger Outlets of San Marcos, located off Interstate 35. Together, these outlets comprise over 200 stores that attract approximately 14 million visitors annually.
- San Marcos Premium Outlets touts itself as one of the state’s top shopping destinations and provides consumers access to luxury brands. Among its 140 stores on its 741,000 square foot property are designer brands such as Diane Von Furstenberg, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Michael Kors, Last Call by Neiman Marcus, Prada, Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Tory Burch.
- Tanger Outlets of San Marcos offers a more traditional factory outlet mall experience with low prices for over 100 brand names, including recognizable names for apparel, shoes, accessories, housewares, and other goods at various price points. Examples of the stores located at Tanger Outlets are Adidas, Aldo, American Outfitters, Corningware, Eddie Bauer, Fossil, Jos. A. Bank, Kenneth Cole, Levi’s, Old Navy, Perfumania, Stride Rite, and Toys “R” Us.
The outlet mall complex is consistently ranked among the top five most popular tourist attractions in the state and enjoys close proximity to major visitor destinations in Austin, the state capital, and San Antonio, home of the Alamo and Riverwalk. In 2006, ABC’s The View named the San Marcos Outlets the third best place to shop in the world behind complexes in New York and Dubai; this represented a major earned media “win” for the region.
Complementing the malls, the San Marcos River and the Blanco River are popular tourism attractions for water activities such as canoeing and kayaking. Jacob’s Well Natural Area is known for its limestone caves. Dripping Springs has branded itself the “Wedding Capital of Texas” and has 34 wedding venues. According to Sherrie Parks, the executive director of the Dripping Springs Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, more than 1,400 couples were married in Dripping Springs in 2013. The city also has several craft breweries and distilleries, including the headquarters and tasting room for Deep Eddy Vodka. Additional attractions include wineries, such as Three Dudes Winery in the City of San Marcos, Bell Springs Winery and Solaro Estate Winery in Dripping Springs, and the Bella Vista Ranch in Wimberley.
Lockhart has garnered national and international attention, featured on Food Network and Travel Channel, and was proclaimed the “Barbecue Capital of Texas” by the Texas Legislature in 1999.
There are 14,500 workers in Greater San Marcos employed in the region’s Destination Attractions subsectors, which include the region’s strongest areas of retail along with entertainment, lodging, and food services categories. The retail component alone has a concentration of 2.96, nearly triple the nationwide figure, with nearly 6,000 workers employed in retail subsectors. The most concentrated retail subsectors are shoe stores, clothing stores, and sporting goods, hobby, and musical instrument stores. This target has thrived in Greater San Marcos, experiencing 86 percent employment growth over time. The two outlet malls are among the region’s top employers and helped to buffer the region from the impacts of the Great Recession.
In 2012, the Destination Attractions target generated $537 million in sales. Of that amount, 57.6 percent were exports, meaning that sales were from customers who are not residents of Greater San Marcos. More specifically, the eight retail subsectors included in this analysis generated $289 million in sales, and 65.2 percent of that amount were exports. Thus, Destination Attractions can be categorized as a “traded” sector that brings new money into the community; this is typically not the case for employment of this type. As a point of comparison, only 22.7 percent of statewide total sales for these subsectors were driven by non-resident consumers from both the U.S. and Mexico. Rebecca Ybarra-Ramirez, executive director of the San Marcos Convention and Visitor Bureau, estimates that 30 percent of the outlets’ market is from Mexico In 2012, Texas State researchers found that, during the holiday season, the outlet malls in San Marcos attract international shoppers from Mexico who spend approximately twice as much as domestic shoppers from outside of the Austin and San Antonio metros.
Destination Attractions skills run the gamut from so called “soft” skills focused on attitude, dress, customer relations, professional behavior, and hygiene to specific occupational competencies. As such, a wide spectrum of academic programs can have applicability in a retail context.
Austin Community College, Hays Campus provides the following programs that can be leveraged for Destination Attractions occupations:
- Computer Information Technology
- Computer Science
- English for Speakers of Other Languages - Academic
- Office Administration
Texas State majors with applicability to Destination Attractions include:
- Advertising and Mass Communication
- Computer Information Systems
- Computer Science (with or without teacher certification)
- Consumer Affairs
- Fashion Merchandising
- Graphic Design and Communication Design
- Interior Design
- Management (with or without teacher certification)
PLACE-BASED ASSETS AND OPPORTUNITIES
By far Greater San Marcos’ most significant geographic advantage for Destination Attractions is its key location along the I-35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio. Those markets, in addition to access provided to the two cities’ international airports, means that travel to the outlet malls is relatively manageable for regional, domestic, and international visitors.
However, highway frontage and ease of access are less favorable for downtown San Marcos and other regional downtowns and activity centers. Providing some type of circulator service between the outlet malls and other regional activity centers could be an opportunity to boost visitation to destinations off the principal highways.
The presence of Texas State University is an advantage for Destination Attractions employers, not only because of the incumbent student, faculty, and staff populations, but the visitors the institution draws to Greater San Marcos for football games and other events.
The aforementioned natural amenities and attractions in the region, most prominently its rivers, can help extend travelers stays and attract tourists to the outlet malls who might not otherwise visit the region.
The region has several downtown districts, historical areas, and activity centers. Greater San Marcos’ principal activity center is downtown San Marcos, which has multiple bars, restaurants, clubs, and other largely student-serving retail. Other districts include the Downtown Buda Historic District, the Dripping Springs Downtown Historic District, and the Caldwell County Courthouse Historic District in Lockhart. All of these districts have recently undergone improvements that are key to providing lifestyle amenities, including hotels, diverse housing options, a larger portfolio of restaurants and retail, and other attractions for residents, all of which were identified by stakeholders as necessary to keep and attract talent.