Marking a New Trend
NEINVER is a leading real estate company that are specialists in the outlet sector who develop, own and manage a portfolio of retail assets across six countries. Here, RLI spends some time with Retail Director Fran Gutiérrez to discuss the past, present and future of the business as it continues to lead the way in developing and managing outlet centres in Europe.
As we near the end of 2023, NEINVER will be able to look back on it fondly as it has been a good year for the company in different aspects. Looking at just the results of the outlet portfolio in terms of performance, brand sales increased 17 per cent in the first half of the year and they registered record monthly figures, with all six countries in which they operate outperforming 2022 levels and recording double-digit growth when compared to pre-pandemic data.
“We feel these results are particularly significant in the current context and show the success of our centres as a growth driver for our brand partners, as well as its appeal for shoppers who are searching for more value. Outlets providing top brands at lower prices offer that compelling value proposition,” highlights Fran Gutiérrez, Retail Director of NEINVER. “Our average occupancy rate stands at 96.5 per cent, which demonstrates that retailers are choosing our centres to grow their portfolio.”
The industry has gone through one of the biggest stress tests imaginable over the past few years, but despite the increased economic volatility and the effects of inflation on households, Gutiérrez explains that the European outlet market started registering positive results last year and these continued and have increased throughout 2023.
He feels confident that the combination of their value proposition, experience and flexibility will continue to be a winning retail formula. Nevertheless, Fran acknowledges that the past years have shown that predicting scenarios is becoming increasingly difficult and industry players have had to adapt to last minute change, with consumer needs changing also at such a breakneck speed. He feels it is likely that the landscape of the sector will be very different in the future and therefore being flexible and agile will be one of the permanent primary factors for the industry.
“With this in mind, building the right team and expertise has been one of the drivers for growth in our business. We have been investing in our teams to guarantee a better service is provided to the centres and to our brand partners. We have rolled out the Advanced Retail Management programme across the six countries in which we operate. It is a training programme designed for the entire retail team, both at central offices and in each of our centres with the aim to empower them, develop the best talent and optimise their skills to enhance performance and drive retail excellence, always in close collaboration with brands. In fact, we are going one step further and we are launching a training platform called NEINVER School, aimed at all employees of the brands operating at our centres. The aim is to support them with tools and knowledge that will enhance their performance.”
Across their outlet portfolio, NEINVER have added many new brands, with Dockers, Under Armour, Rituals Cosmetics, Lacoste being just a sample of their most recent signings, with retail groups such as Bestseller and AWWG also signing up.
“We work hard to ensure a compelling offer for our customers. So we are constantly looking for new brands or growing our brand partners across the portfolio, not just for the sake of keeping high occupancy, but we are looking for great brands that also bring new customers to our centres.”
Beyond apparel, they have been adding more food space and variety to their centres. “Our aim is to double our food offering based on current demand as food and beverage are becoming an important anchor. For instance, our Viladecans The Style Outlets in Barcelona that benefits from day visitors from the affluent catchment, tourists and employees from nearby offices has seen its F&B share rise from 5 per cent to 18 per cent. Coruña The Style Outlets meanwhile will reach 10 per cent by the end of this year, up from around 3 per cent at the beginning of 2023,” Gutiérrez highlights.
To maintain its market position, NEINVER is always looking at new ways to attract more customers and one way it does this is by innovating and bringing in new leisure formulas.
“For example, our Italian centre near Milan, Vicolungo The Style Outlets, welcomed a unique 1,700sq m children’s play area, the Kinder Joy of Moving park; while in Spain we have signed a deal with Ilusiona, a national benchmark in family leisure and entertainment facilities,” Gutiérrez explains.
Another key part is being creative. They have developed special events that run throughout the year across their portfolio and that create powerful commercial opportunities for their retailers. Jungle Night, Super Thursday, Style Days and 80s Party are a selection of these events that combine amazing product, fantastic experience and a really good choice of brands but at a value proposition. These pioneering events are exceeding performance expectations of their brand partners as well as enhancing consumer engagement and loyalty.
One of the keys to NEINVER’s success over the years is the relationships they have developed with their retailers. These relationships are based on partnerships, in understanding and supporting their tenant’s strategies, anticipating their needs and advising them to help maximise their performance. They work as partners with three core principles in mind; working closely with brands, being aligned both internally and externally and being fast in their response.
With their own style that is based on a work ethic and criteria that distinguishes them from the competition, NEINVER feels that their brand partners see the value in this; after all it is the NEINVER way of doing things.
As our time with Gutiérrez draws to an end we ask what key challenges the company will face in the coming years?
“We continue to live in uncertain times that make it difficult to predict what is next. The outlet sector has been more resilient to the challenges but we cannot take this for granted. To ensure future success we must continue to put the consumer at the forefront, focus on making their experience a priority and understand their changing needs. This is why we will continue to consolidate some of the initiatives put in place in the past years. Also, connecting the physical and digital worlds, prioritising sustainability, continuing to leverage consumer knowledge and understanding the needs of retailers combined with effective management and the ability to remain flexible, agile, collaborative and creative will help us moving forward and ensure continued success.”