Otto Ambagtsheer, COO of VIA Outlets, takes some time to share his positive outlook for the outlet centre model moving forward.
Three elements can be identified as key drivers for the success of the outlet malls sector: a closer relationship with brands, the emphasis on adding a strong element of “experience” to centres and a set of innovative tourism initiatives. Brands have begun to acknowledge outlet malls not only as a way of stock reducing unsold pieces but also as an opportunity to tap into a new market segment. Acting on this changing dynamic, which is an important source of additional revenues for brands, outlet operators need to work even more closely with brands by creating mutually beneficial relationships that help boost their turnover – something that the majority of the shopping mall operators are not doing.
Creating the best shopping experience for both brands and guests have become key. A visit to an outlet centre has to be much more than a simple “one-stop-shop”. There is an immense element of value that lies in the quality of experiences that can be offered to customers. This means that multiple needs and amenities must be addressed in one place to maximise the incentives to visit outlet centres and benefit from a unique shopping experience. It can range from an extensive food and beverage option for families, leisure areas for children, and an aesthetic that encourages customers to continue exploring the extensive retail options on offer. VIA Outlets has been particularly proactive in this area, taking the further step to not only differentiate itself from the traditional shopping malls but differentiating its retail spaces from other outlet malls through distinct, personalised experience and additional services.
The tourism industry is a niche driver of the outlet mall success. With an increasing number of domestic, European and international tourists travelling across Europe, outlet centres have a quite unique opportunity to tap into a still expanding customer segment. By providing added-value services such as tax refund facilities for overseas guests, Alipay, and lounges for VIP guests who can enjoy personal shopping, operators can elevate comfort, leisure, and needs-based services to deliver a personalised and tailored experience to guests.
Going forward, we see these elements as key to help ensure the success of outlet centres in the future. One thing we can say for certain is that the retail landscape will keep changing – so listening to the needs of guests are more paramount than ever.