Monday, July 15, 2024
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International Outlets

Continuing to Evolve

The outlet sector has come into its own in recent years and has come out the other side of the pandemic in a strong position after demonstrating tremendous resilience. Over the coming pages RLI takes a closer look at a number of international outlet schemes from across the world that highlight why the sector has been one of the fastest to rebound.

Retail outlets continue to perform well after bouncing back from the difficulties in recent years and they continue to welcome international and domestic shoppers. These retail destinations also offer a prime opportunity for brand exposure, with impressive visitor numbers comprising domestic visitors and tourists, according to Kate Girdwood, Business Development Manager at Local Data Company in her article ‘Practical and Profitable: The Appeal of Retail Outlets’.

Girdwood continues by saying that retail outlets create appealing conditions for spending: shoppers often dedicate several hours or a whole day to visiting an outlet so may be more inclined to justify the trip by making a purchase. This also presents an opportunity for F&B occupiers to offer restaurants, coffee shops and bars to support long dwell times.

An example of an outlet centre that has continued to perform well is Quintain’s London Designer Outlet, which has begun its tenth year of trading this year on a record-breaking trajectory, having surpassed the centres previous December, January and February trading figures. The figures for these months signify the resounding appeal of outlets as the cost-of-living crisis takes hold and shoppers look for ways to save money on discretionary purchases.

Since 2008, ecostra GmbH has conducted an annual survey of international brand manufacturers who are tenants in outlet centres in Europe. Since 2012, the survey has been carried out in cooperation with the French research institute Magdus. This report highlights that outlet centres are an agglomeration of many outlet store units within a co-ordinately-planned or a spatially-interrelated complex of buildings with a more than 5,000sq m retail sales area and with more than 20 outlet stores. In these sites brand manufacturers and vertically-integrated retailers sell past seasons, factory seconds and surplus stock etc. directly to the consumer, without using retail businesses as (intermediate) distributive channels.

This year’s report has seen a changing of the guard in Europe’s top outlet centres as Cheshire Oaks, located south of Liverpool in the industrial town of Ellesmere Port, is the second English centre to top the list of the most successful outlet centres in Europe. Until now, this rank in England was reserved for Bicester Village, which is located near the university city of Oxford as well as the tourist attraction Stonehenge.

The report, which by now is considered “the” benchmark for the European outlet sector, is based on data from a total of 91 international brand manufacturers who currently operate a total of 1,383 stores in existing outlet centres in Europe.

While this report highlights centres that are already open and operating, the next few pages will focus on those in the pipeline that are set to continue the evolution of the sector.

Tanger Factory Outlet Centers, Inc. a leading operator of upscale open-air outlet centres is currently developing its newest centre, Tanger Outlets Nashville. The six-building, 290,000sq ft open-air outlet shopping centre, located along I-24 at the Century Farms development, is slated to open in fall 2023 on a 32-acre parcel. Tanger Outlets Nashville will bring best-in-class offerings and experiences, providing a reimagined outlet shopping destination that reflects the vibrancy of the area, while serving as a gathering place for locals and visitors to the greater Nashville community. A leader in the retail industry over the past four decades, Tanger is recognised for its relationships with iconic brands, creating memorable shopping experiences and building relationships with artists, restaurateurs and influencers to bring bold, new dimension to its collection of retail and brand partners. The outlet shopping leader’s new Nashville location will house a rich roster of more than 70 brands, including digitally native companies and popular local concepts.

International Outlets 1
Fukaya-Hanazono Premium Outlets, Tokyo, Japan
Developers: Simon and Mitsubishi Estate Group

Back in October, Simon and Mitsubishi Estate Simon, a joint venture between Mitsubishi Estate Group and Simon, announced the opening of Fukaya-Hanazono Premium Outlets, the 10th Premium Outlet centre in Japan and the first new location in Japan in 10 years, located approximately 45 miles northwest of Tokyo. Building on the success of Gotemba and Rinku Premium Outlets and the other seven properties in Japan, Fukaya-Hanazono Premium Outlets will feature 137 brand name stores in 296,000sq ft. Of the stores, twenty-four stores have launched their first outlet centre concept location worldwide or first in Japan. The centre also features an impressive food hall design and several new restaurant concepts consisting of Asian, Western and local Japanese food and beverage options. Fukaya-Hanazono Premium Outlets is built to a modern contemporary architectural design which complements the landscape of the local area, including the red-brick and wood finish that is local to Fukaya City.

Landquart Fashion Outlet, Landquart, Switzerland
Developer: VIA Outlets

VIA Outlets, the industry-leading owner-operator redefining the outlet shopping experience across 11 premium outlets in Europe, has begun 2023 on the back of a very strong 2022 that saw over 300 remerchandising deals and increased spend per visitor at outlets across the portfolio. VIA Outlets saw its best year ever in 2022 and the company grew by three per cent when compared to 2019 pre-pandemic levels, surpassing €1.2bn in total brand sales across more than 1,100 stores in 11 destinations in nine European countries, with an increased guest expenditure of 21 per cent compared to 2019. Last year also saw important remodelling works for destinations in the VIA Outlets portfolio. At Sevilla Fashion Outlet, Spain, an additional 3,800sq m GLA will be added, which is scheduled to open at the end of 2023. Oslo Fashion Outlet, Norway, also celebrated in November with the inauguration of a new car park, adding a total of over 1,000 convenient parking spaces for visitors. Plans have also been finalised for the 4,707sq m expansion of Landquart Fashion Outlet, Switzerland, with a scheduled opening date of Q4 2024.

International Outlets 2
Tubize Outlet Mall, Brussels, Belgium
Developer: Start Concept

TORG International will collaborate with Start Concept on leasing the first outlet in Brussels. Construction of the entire project is well advanced with an opening planned for September 2024 and the project will be called Tubize Outlet Mall. The 15,300sq m outlet will be located in the heart of Belgium, 25 minutes South West of the city of Brussels. It will be part of a new mixed-use neighbourhood development, the so-called “Confluents” including residential, leisure and diversified gastronomy. Located on a former industrial site of over 80ha, TOM will benefit from one of the most densely populated catchments in Europe with over seven million people living within 60 minutes as well as an above average purchasing power. It aims to attract visitors from Flanders, Wallon Brabant and Hainaut. On leasing the outlet, TORG International will collaborate with Start Concepts.

Established in 2002, Realm was created as an all-encompassing “one stop shop” asset management business specialising across the retail and leisure property sector. Realm adopts a holistic approach to asset management with specialist in-house teams working collaboratively on all assets to provide a fully integrated suite of leasing, marketing, development, commercial operations, facilities management and finance. With an extensive footprint across the UK market, the company is now making major inroads into the European market with its first acquisition, a joint venture with PATRIZIA at Ringsted in Denmark. The company sees this as a natural step to bring their operating model and their relationship with international brands and their investment advisory experience into Europe. Ringsted is Denmark’s only real outlet village, spans over 13,400sq m of retail space and is home to Danish and international brands with 48 flagship outlets and three restaurants. Ringsted Outlet Centre has an occupancy rate of 97 per cent and features a strong brand mix with a number of key anchor tenants, including Nike, Hugo Boss, Levi’s and Adidas, as well as numerous other international fashion brands such as Guess, Lacoste and Gant.

International Outlets 3
McArthurGlen Paris-Giverny Designer Outlet, Paris, France
Developer: McArthurGlen

Set to open in April, this 27th project of McArthurGlen will be the first and only luxury Designer Outlet to the west of Paris. Located near Monet’s Giverny, one of the most prestigious cultural and tourist sites in France and just 45 minutes by car from the French capital, their newest Designer Outlet is set to become a key attraction for its fashionable local population and for the 40 million tourists who visit Paris every year. With 21,500sq m of contemporary retail space, the upcoming centre has been thoughtfully designed to bring together international fashion, local culture and artisanal design. The centre will also be home to an artisan village, the Maison des Métiers d’Art, an immersive destination dedicated to promoting and showcasing the very best of Norman and French craftsmanship. McArthurGlen has partnered with celebrated designer, Mathieu Lehanneur, to create the architectural concept for the space. The Maison des Métiers d’Art has been developed in collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (The CCI) and the Chamber of Crafts and Artisanship of the Eure (The CMA).

NEINVER, a leading property investor, developer and operator company with over 25 years of expertise in the outlet sector, is continuing construction works at Alpes The Style Outlets, which once completed will mark the company’s 17th outlet centre across six European countries. Alpes The Style Outlets, which will be NEINVER’s second outlet centre in France, boasts an exceptional location near the Swiss border, close to Geneva and next to key tourist destinations. It will feature 20,400sq m of GLA, over 90 boutiques and restaurants providing both local and international cuisine. Located 25 minutes from Geneva, the scheme will offer 1,350 parking spaces and will have direct access to the A-40 motorway, a key transport link between France and Switzerland and to popular winter destinations. It will also be easily accessible by high-speed train thanks to the Paris to Geneva connection, with a TGV station located just five minutes from the future centre. Finely tuned to the local landscape, Alpes The Style Outlets will offer an avant-garde atmosphere, combining natural materials such as wood and stone for a contemporary look. In this open mall concept designed in an “Alpine village” style with chalet-style shops and terraces, NEINVER plans to create a promenade destination and a relaxing day-out providing much more than just shopping. Lyon-based SEV Architectures will project monitor the construction under the coordination and supervision of Arcadis, leading global design and consultancy. The opening date has not yet been announced but once complete it is expected to create around 500 direct jobs.

International Outlets 4
Tbilisi Outlet Village, Tbilisi, Georgia
Developer: Georgian Outlets & Resource Group

Construction of Phase 1 of Tbilisi Outlet Village outside the Georgian capital is progressing rapidly. All of the steel structures for the 70 future units along with a number of buildings and facades have been erected as of the beginning of 2023. The opening of Phase 1 is now scheduled for spring 2024. Phase 1 of Tbilisi Outlet Village will consist of 12,500sq m GLA and will bring together a well curated mix of brands including well-known designer labels from Europe, the US and Georgia as well as mainstream fashion and major sportswear brands. Two thirds of the space is already leased a year before opening. A strong gastronomic offer will be of particular focus given the country’s food culture and its 8,000-year-old history in winemaking. Phase 2 is scheduled to follow within three years of the opening of Phase 1 to bring the project to a total of 20,000sq m GLA and 110 units. Tbilisi Outlet Village is expected to attract a total of seven million visitors in its first three years alone, including a significant number of cross-border travelers from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia and Turkey. The outlet’s location is particularly well suited – just 30 minutes south-east of the capital, directly on the busy E60 motorway. The scheme is being developed by Georgian Outlets & Resort Group in close collaboration with TORG International.

International Outlets 5
Scalo Milano Outlet & More, Milan, Italy
Owner: Lonati Group

Scalo Milano Outlet & More, inaugurated in October 2016, is in Locate Triulzi, just 15 minutes from Milan’s city centre and it brings together over 150 outlets between Design, Fashion and Food in a dynamic and contemporary place. After the first two operating years, in 2018 the owner Lonati Group and its asset & property management arm Locate District Spa appointed global retail architect Design International and shared their long-term vision to make of Scalo Milano much more than a classic designer outlet. This latest €30M extension project, already under construction and due to open by summer 2024, is built over three levels. The ground and the first are dedicated to mono-brand retail units and casual dining restaurants, while the second floor will feature a co-working area, directly accessible from a new plaza and the already existing multi-storey parking.

From a desolate outlet on the periphery of a small Northern Irish town to Ireland’s most exciting retail and leisure destination, The Boulevard and wider Outlet Park attracts upwards of 4.5 million in footfall to the Park annually, employing more than 500 people from the local community. Owned by Lotus Property, the site houses more than 50 globally recognised designer retail brands including new stores for Kate Spade New York, Yankee Candle, Murmur and Houstons alongside existing retailers Joules, Dune London, Molton Brown, Crew Clothing, Kurt Geiger, Nike, GUESS, Timberland, Jack Wills, an Omniplex cinema and strong food & beverage offering, The Boulevard is Northern Ireland’s leading sustainable shopping destination. Situated close to the Republic of Ireland border, it benefits from shopper footfall from Northern Irish capital, Belfast and one of Europe’s most exciting and affluent cities, Dublin.

Fashion House Group will start in the second quarter of this year the construction of the second phase of Fashion House Outlet Centre Pallady, which is located in the eastern part of Bucharest. The company will invest around €45M the expansion of its Pallady outlet centre. This is the seventh centre of this kind developed by Liebrecht & wooD and Fashion House Group across Europe and the expansion will see the addition of 5,700sq m of retail space. Construction is planned to complete by the end of 2023 and the leasing process began last year and is going well.

HG Invest is developing the unique project Fashion Outlet Slovenia in cooperation with FOC Retail Service GmbH and Outlet Evolution Services. On an area of more than 20,000sq m, 70 shops and several hundred new jobs will be created in two phases. Phase 1 is on course to be opened in 2024 and Phase 2 is scheduled for 2026. The Fashion Outlet Slovenia will be located directly next to the motorway exit for Šentilj on the Austrian border in the north-east of Slovenia, bordering the Slovenian A1 motorway, which joins the Pyhrn A9 motorway, one of the most important north-south axes in Austria. It is only 30 driving minutes south of Graz, the second largest city of Austria and 20 driving minutes north of Maribor. The unique village atmosphere with regional architecture incorporates modern and typical regional elements of Slovenian construction style. The category mix is based on international experience and will include mostly casual, sports fashion and fashion brands. The broad brand mix will be completed by the segments outdoor, shoes & accessories, home and kids wear.

International Outlets 6
Malmö Designer Village, Malmö, Sweden
Developer: Rioja Estates

Malmö Designer Village is predicted to be one of Europe’s best performing outlet destinations for Europe, bringing an unrivalled mix of premium international and new-to-market retail and dining brands to Southern Sweden. The scheme will provide a high-quality, elegantly landscaped environment in a concept that is not currently offered in the Scandinavian region. When Phase 1 launches in summer/autumn 2025, Malmö Designer Village will be one of Scandinavia’s largest shopping destinations and upon completion of Phase 2 in autumn 2027, it is expected to rank in the top 25 per cent of outlet centres across Europe for visitor numbers. As a result of unprecedented demand from brands in the region and internationally, which are attracted to Malmö Designer Village and its innovative costumer experience vision, rich catchment and superb sustainability credentials, developer Rioja Estates, with advisors TORG International and KLM Real Estate leading on leasing, has announced that more than 50 per cent of the available space has been committed or is in advanced negotiations. Malmö Designer Village will also provide a varied food and beverage offer, areas dedicated to kids’ play and physical exercise, seasonal events and multisensory elements – offering an all-day destination for the entire family. Additionally, Malmö Designer Village has partnered with e-commerce platform Wishibam and will offer a transactional website enabling visitors to shop online and have items delivered to their door, or browse product ranges and in-store availability before travelling to the outlet.

Scotch Corner Designer Village is set to be the leading outlet and leisure destination in the north of England and it will serve an affluent shopper profile with a high volume of residents and tourists in a very accessible location in the UK’s number one tourist region outside London. Being developed by Scotch Corner Richmond LLP and set to open in autumn 2023, the scheme comprises 150,000sq ft of retail space and will feature 80 boutiques, restaurants and cafes in phase one. In addition, the site will be home to the UK’s largest Blue Diamond lifestyle, home and garden, which is already fully let and will encompass 160,000sq ft. The scheme is also a leisure destination with extensive landscaping, unique food offering, children’s and adult activities, restaurants and interactive experiences, dog walking and bike riding routes. The investment in Scotch Corner Designer Village is £100M for the first phase and will feature premium brands and restaurants including adidas, Hugo Boss, Skechers, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Joules, Dune London, Five Guys and wagamama.

International Outlets 7
Cotswolds Designer Outlet, Gloucestershire, UK
Developer: Robert Hitchins Ltd

Cotswolds Designer Outlet in Gloucestershire is set to be one of the best-located, premium designer outlet schemes in the UK. At Junction 9 of the M5 and adjacent to the A46 the centre will draw from an 11.8 million, 90 minute and 5.8 million, 60 minute catchment. When combined with a regional tourist spend of £3.6bn the result is a compelling destination placed at the heart of an affluent region teaming with outlet shoppers. Built in two phases totalling up to 95 stores and 200,000sq ft the outlet is part of a wider sustainable leisure development and targeted to open in 2024. Cotswolds Designer Outlet will offer a wide range of restaurant and cafe accommodation with ideal trading opportunities for national, regional, independent and local artisan operators. The development will cleverly use food and beverage options to extend dwell time and capitalise on passing and tourist trade. The centre is being developed by Robert Hitchins Ltd and will be let and managed by Realm, the specialist operator of outlets and retail destinations.

International Outlets 8
Grantham Designer Outlet Village, Lincolnshire, UK
Developers: Rioja Estates & Buckminster

Opening in 2024, Grantham Designer Outlet Village will be the premium new outlet shopping destination for the East of England, with Phase 1 comprising up to 90 top-tier retailers, restaurants and attractive coffee shops and Phase 2 bringing the total number of stores to 137 in 2025. This responds to the high demand for space: almost 30 per cent of the available footage is already committed, with a mix of popular brands similar to that of Rioja Estates’ previous development, Designer Outlet West Midlands in Cannock. The scheme will have social and environmental sustainability at its core; in addition to being awarded the BREEAM ‘Very Good’ certificate for sustainability in its design, the Designer Outlet promises to bring £100M in direct investment and create more than 1,500 permanent jobs when it opens, creating opportunities for local people and businesses. The project is being delivered by Rioja Estates, pioneers of the outlet retail sector, with leasing support from advisors TORG International and KLM.

Complementing the in-store experience, it will also be the first outlet in the UK to offer a transactional website, enabling visitors to shop online as well as browse available products before travelling.

Al Khiran, the region’s first hybrid outlet mall is set to open in Q2 2023 and it will serve to meet heightened shopper expectation by offering a combination of high value and dynamic experiences through a mix of premium outlet shopping, unique dining options, cutting-edge entertainment and recreational leisure experiences like Kuwait’s largest marina with 900 berths, a 70,000sq m boardwalk, 1.25km walking track and outdoor gardens with an amphitheatre for year-long events. Additional features that are currently being planned before opening will include multipurpose sports facilities and a resort hotel. Under development by Tamdeen, the upcoming outlet mall will soon be the main commercial centre in the South of Kuwait serving as the Central Business District of the area.

Dubai Outlet Mall, the first “value” concept mall in the MENA region, has embarked on a major expansion drive, bringing the total area of the mall to 3.8 million square feet — making it the largest outlet mall not only in the region but in the world. The expansion is in line with the brand’s commitment to delivering outstanding experiences to customers and demonstrates its ongoing drive to boost the country’s retail economy. Strategically located at the intersection of MBZ and Dubai Bypass and Al-Ain Road, DOM is easily accessible to all UAE residents across the seven emirates and provides a well-structured comprehensive retail mix, offering great value from high-end brands to streetwear. The redevelopment of the outlet was due to open its doors at the back end of last year by owner Al Ahli Group.

Maintaining Momentum

Outlet centres have continued to perform admirably throughout the last few years despite unprecedented circumstances. Over the next few pages, a selection of industry experts from around the sector take some time out to talk to RLI about their thoughts on the outlet model and what the future holds for the sector.

International Outlets 9
Landquart Fashion Outlet, Zizers, Switzerland
Developer: VIA Outlets

Otto Ambagtsheer, CEO – VIA Outlets

Cost of living and recessionary concerns typically weigh on prospects for the retail sector. Outlet centres, including we at VIA Outlets, are bucking that trend, as the record 2022 sales results of leading operators have shown, with the outlook for the next 12 months and beyond increasingly rosy.

Tourism – an important and growing customer segment for outlets – is not at pre-pandemic levels yet, but bouncing back. In Europe, which has by far the most international tourist arrivals worldwide, inbound travellers in 2022 almost doubled over the year before, driving rising international guest numbers. The growth trend continued into 2023 with shopping visitors to Europe from the GCC countries up 286 per cent in February over Q4 2022, jumping 284 per cent from the US and intra-regional shoppers rising 218 per cent over the same period, according to tax refund provider Global Blue.

Outlet centres also have a proven resilience during periods of economic stress, when shoppers are searching for more value. Outlets providing premium brands at discounted prices offer that compelling value proposition.

Plus, outlets will invest more in placemaking and offering a “beautiful local” sense of place to deliver the experiences today’s consumers crave. Customers are seeking more experiential rather than transactional shopping engagements – a trend that continues to grow. Outlets offer places for people to hang out, spend time with family and friends and explore the varied amenities on offer.

The capture and intelligent use of first-party data can further augment that experience quality. Combining retailers’ vertical data on the activity in their stores with operators’ horizontal insights across the outlet space provides a better understanding of guests, including where they come from, how often they visit, when and where they shop and how much they spend. Armed with a deeper understanding of visitors’ shopping habits, retailers can provide more tailored offers in personalised, one-to-one communications.

Shopping destinations that surprise and delight

To profit from these trends though operators need to surprise and delight their guests. That takes some key ingredients.

Success starts with an interesting brand offer. One way is to mix typical outlet brands with an element of newness, such as digital-native brands that are seeking to expand into the bricks-and-mortar world.

A focus on sustainability is crucial. The younger generation, in particular, are looking for places where they can shop more sustainably. For example, more second-hand premium luxury stores are starting to feature in outlets, which wasn’t the case two years ago.

A great mix of food & beverage offerings will help extend guests’ visit times and total spend. A desirable F&B array is an important contributor to the overall experience quality too. As are non-shopping attractions like the architectural styling, children’s play areas, art installations and exhibitions.
The year-ahead offers the outlet sector an opportunity to further bolster its place in the retail ecosystem. Outlet centres’ resilience and sharp recovery in sales post-Covid suggest they have the edge over full-price retail as we enter another period of economic and geopolitical uncertainty.

International Outlets 10
Ringsted Outlet, Ringsted, Denmark
Developers: Agat Ejendomme & CapMan Real Estate

Dan Mason, Co-Founder and Manging Director – Realm

As the weather becomes warmer and clocks change here are some predictions and observations for the outlet sector in 2023/4.

Making the great greater is a theme of consolidation we are continuing to see, with investment in store refits and upsizes back on the agenda as successful stores increase their presence. Athleisure is a key driver for this trend and as a main anchor category for outlets, we are seeing schemes become real destinations for their sheer array of merchandise. From performance wear, running shoes, gym, leisure and comfortwear, the breath of offer is such that broad demands can be satisfied across a wide demographic and price point.

New growth is a big prize for marketing teams to attract new and lapsed customer visits. We are seeing domestic and international tourism shifting as new routes open up in response to currency fluctuations. Many schemes are now making inroads with younger audiences driven by use of livestreams, TikTok and Instagram. Experiential, cultural and event investment is increasing dwell time from the family and older demographic to secure that day out status outlet destinations do so well to uphold. This year feels as though outlets are still getting back to what they were so good at before the pandemic, with this added incentive to win more market share. The scenario for outlet growth and enhanced performance has rarely been more favourable and this, combined with the data driven turnover operating model, is of increasing appeal to investors.

The new focus on community has presented an opportunity to make meaningful impacts within immediate catchments. Outlets have realised they have to be more than places to shop and that they have responsibilities to give back, to provide employment and to justify their existence socially. We are seeing more added value and charitable activities being staged which give outlets more personality and purpose which in turn will increase frequency of visit.

Finally, I predict there will be more responsible framing of outlet shopping as we continue to trade under inflationary pressure. We have a responsibility to show our discounts are robust and authentic as we leverage the outlet proposition to an audience who are increasingly price conscious. Outlets have proved themselves to perform exceptionally well in both good and difficult economic conditions – with customers drawn to the quality, value proposition and experience. However, our guests are now far more literate and inquisitive of conscious consumerism issues and sustainability credentials so we will see schemes being far more vocal and public with their green targets.

International Outlets 11
The Boulevard, Banbridge, Northern Ireland
Owners: Lotus Property and Tristan Capital Partners

Chris Nelmes, Retail Director – The Boulevard

The future of outlet retail will not be all about shopping, but rather the concept of ‘retailtainment’. First articulated by American sociologist, George Ritze, retailtainment is “the use of sound, ambience, emotion and activity to get customers interested in the merchandise and in the mood to buy”.

The last few years have been more disruptive to the retail industry than ever before resulting in a noticeable shift in the predominant use of outlets and high streets to social and experiential, as retail and functional needs are increasingly met online. With the ease of shopping at your fingertips becoming the norm, we need to understand what can be done onsite to entice people back out to the physical stores once again.

By shifting the focus from retail only destinations to carefully curating the full ‘day out’ experience, outlets which offer a host of leisure, entertainment, food and beverage options alongside strong retail see an overall uptick in dwell time and in turn sales figures. Investing in the outlet’s surroundings and green spaces can’t be underestimated if you want customers to stay longer and spend more. At The Boulevard we offer monthly social and experiential events which have been very successful and notably boosted both sales and footfall across the scheme.

From a retail perspective, the ideal set up to keep people visiting is a mix of well-known fashion brands and independent retailers with unique offerings. Shopping is the bread and butter of the retail industry and outlets already offer something unique with heavily discounted prices, but by supporting a leisure outlook you open your doors to so many more potential customers.

As an industry, we now need to work harder and more creatively to get people onsite compared to pre-pandemic, but in doing so we can establish a strong community and tap into the day out destination market. After what was predicted to be a gloomy time for retail, The Boulevard finished 2022 as it started by bucking national retail trends with record sales and footfall figures, signalling the strength of the outlet model and the payoff from adopting a retailtainment focus.

International Outlets 12
Scotch Corner Designer Village, Yorkshire, UK
Developer: Scotch Corner Richmond LLP

Ian Sanderson, CEO – SLR Outlets

Outlets continue to grow in popularity, with retailers and shoppers alike, throughout Europe, but some are performing more strongly. These tend to be the outlets which fully understand that they are a leisure destination. Shopping is the number one leisure activity today and outlets which recognise their role as all-round leisure-operators are reaping rewards. For instance, SLR Outlets specialises in developing and managing outlets with leisure, because they see that this accelerates growth in footfall, turnover, dwell time and density. For one simple reason, this gives the guests a fuller, more complete, and enjoyable experience.

Springfields in Lincolnshire is a prime example with its guests citing the integrated leisure as a key reason to visit as part of the overall outlet experience.

Sales densities of outlets exceed standard retail and those with integrated leisure often outperform the rest. Driving growth of high-quality footfall in outlets and delivering turnover is key because outlets operate on a turnover rent model. Turnover growth is central to the partnership between tenants and the landlord. Ordinary covered shopping centres, by comparison, are trading significantly less strongly throughout Europe, by as much as 20 per cent.

The key is creating highly desirable environments, blending innovative leisure experiences with new and exciting retail in spacious and beautiful settings.

Leisure doesn’t necessarily mean bowling alleys and paid-for activities, but, for instance, well-integrated gardens and a carefully choreographed events programme are stronger and far less costly. The secret is to integrate the leisure experience into the outlet visit, not offer it a separate attraction.
One family of visitors will have a range of different wants and if they are given a holistic experience, they enjoy the visit more, leave happy and are much more likely to visit again soon and share the experience.

Creating unique and interesting restaurant experiences, like The Wolseley at Bicester Village or The Parlour at Springfields, will also make for strong talking points and attract more visits.

Slick technology is essential, linking guests, retailers, events, leisure and marketing. Fully responsive Apps and websites drive loyalty, footfall and sales.

Outlets with this leisure-destination-mentality understand how to promote the entire experience and maximise high quality footfall, quickly.

Clearly value-for-money is a key driver these days and fits well with the outlet proposition, but guests still want the full experience. The better the overall experience, the longer the dwell time with higher turnover.