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A battle of the outlet malls is shaping up on opposite sides of the Niagara River as Scarborough-based Etac Sales Ltd. begins construction of an outlet mall in Niagara Falls, Ont.

The $20 million, 60-store facility will compete directly with the 65-store, 400,000-square-foot Factory Outlet Mall on Military Road in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

"The proponents of the mall feel they can compete with the outlet mall across the border, and we're delighted that they are building here," said Charles Chataway, economic development director for the Niagara Falls, Ont., Economic Development Agency.

Efforts to contact Benderson Development Co. Inc., owner of the Niagara Falls, N.Y., outlet mall, for comment on the new competitor were unsuccessful. But it is known that as much as 75 percent to 95 percent of the mall's customers come from Canada.

Chataway said the mall would be a first for Canada, in that it is targeting upscale, Canadian manufacturers as tenants.

The initial project phase, a 125,000-square-foot facility will be built on an 18-acre site southeast of downtown Niagara Falls, at the Queen Elizabeth Way and McLeod Road.

"We hope to have the facility open by June 1991," said Alec Lam, chief financial officer of Etac, an international trading company with offices worldwide. Once completed, the mall will employ about 450 and add $300,000 annually to the municipal tax base.

Chataway said the city, the economic development agency and Etac had been working together for 12 months to make the project go.

Monday night, the company put its plans in front of the city council, which endorsed the project.

The Niagara Region legislators now must approve enabling legislation to allow the mall to open for business on Sundays. No vote currently is scheduled.

Lam said Etac feels there is a definite need for an outlet mall in Niagara Falls, Ont. He didn't discount the fact that the mall should attract shoppers tired of waiting to clear customs with goods bought across the border.

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