Being inside outlets has been a family trait of the Tangers
Factory-outlet stores are a tradition in Steve Tanger’s family. His grandfather, Moe, opened one of the first in the 1920s. His dad, Stanley, started what would become Tanger Factory Outlet Centers Inc., based in Greensboro, three decades ago and remained CEO until he was 85. Tanger, who joined the com- pany 25 years ago, succeeded him two years ago. His father died in October. A month later, the company opened its 33rd shopping center — with 80 stores — off Interstate 85/40 in Mebane. Three more centers are in the works. The company stayed profitable through the recession, though net income fell 43% in 2010.
You were 60 when you became CEO. Must have been tough to wait so long.
My father and I were best friends; he was my mentor. When I started in 1986, there was my father, myself, a secretary and a bookkeeper. So we built the business together and had a great time doing it.
How did the company manage succession?
I became president and chief operating officer in 1995, so there was a long transition. I spent a lot of time in New York, working with Wall Street and our major tenants, traveling around the country identifying appropriate locations for outlet centers and getting the centers developed and built. Dad spent a lot of time in North Carolina, working with our corporate group here and the accounting group. And we both worked with the marketing group.
Do you feel you work in his shadow?
I’m proud of his legacy, but I don’t feel I have to compete with him. We have different styles. Over time, I hope I’ll be as well-regarded.
How does your management style differ?
I think that my father was more entrepreneurial, building a small business into a larger one. My background is more corporate training.
How is the Mebane center performing?
It is way above average. The initial reception was stunning. We backed up traffic on the Interstate at our grand opening.
What are the economic indicators that tell you it’s a good time to build a center?
The best economic indicator is tenants signing leases. I think the economy is probably stronger than most people had imagined. When we build, we look out two, three or four years, not two or three weeks. And I think over the next two or three years, people will start to rehire. And a lot of folks, having adjusted their individual cash flows, and with secure jobs, are more receptive to buying discretionary items.
Will you still be CEO at 85?
We’ve got good genes. My grandfather retired in 1980, and he was 81. But we’re a public company now, and I serve at the pleasure of my board of directors.