NEINVER is a Spanish multinational company specialised in managing, developing and investing in commercial properties. Founded in 1989, the company manages 18 outlet centres, five retail parks and more than 800 brands across six European markets and here RLI sits down with Managing Director Carlos González to discuss the changes in the sector.
Years before anyone could ever conceive the world critically affected by a global pandemic, consumer behaviour was already changing at breakneck speed. Drivers such as convenience, experience, sustainability, community and omnichannel solutions were all coming together to form a unique and complex playbook for a fast-changing game. A clear vision and the ability to learn and relearn the rules are key to succeeding in the retail environment, where the term status quo is fading
“Despite e-commerce growth during the pandemic, bricks-and-mortar spaces are still a key touchpoint for brands as they continue to help reinforce brand equity and reach new customers,” explains Carlos González, NEINVER’s Managing Director. “At our outlet portfolio, leasing activity has continued non-stop over the last year, a testament to retailers’ interest in curated, outperforming outlet destinations. Brands such as Ballin, David Naman, G-Star, Hugo Boss, Intrend, NA-KD, Name-it, Lacoste, Pure White, Ravensburger, The Cosmetics Company Store and Villeroy & Bosch have all either taken up more space or debuted in our centres over the last few months.”
In the months ahead, Carlos believes we will continue seeing a shift in the outlet centre retail mix, with an ever-greater presence of younger, hybrid brands in need of complementing their distribution strategies as they grow. Pop-up stores at the centres can also play a key role in incubating the next generation of permanent tenants while keeping shoppers coming back for new and exciting experiences.
A relevant mix of brands and price remain the key drivers of the outlet value proposition, but they need to form part of a well-manicured customer-centric experience. By creating carefully curated experiences, centres can appeal to time-conscious consumers and establish deeper emotional connections with their audiences. It’s about making sure that they value the relationship and enjoy the discovery. At NEINVER, they have been developing a broad range of initiatives designed to do just this – building on their brand partnerships and customer experience, investing in digital technologies and raising the bar on their sustainability targets.
When it comes to investing in physical locations, no corners can be cut. In 2020, NEINVER completed the renovation of Vicolungo The Style Outlets, near Milan, recently recognised with the “International Outlet Centre – Renovation” award at the Global RLI Awards 2021. The restyling of the outlet aimed to provide visitors with an outstanding shopping experience and create a refreshing place for retailers resulted in a fresh, well lit, modern and elegant space. Moreover, the main square welcomes the ”Kinder Joy of moving Park” which is a 1,700sq m space for children, the only one of its kind in Italy and the result of a public-private partnership.
Convenience is also paramount when it comes to physical shopping. As well as supporting their tenants to maximise store efficiency, ensure excellence in customer service and roll out their latest store concepts among other things, NEINVER offers a full suite of customer services across the portfolio including personal shopper, hands-free shopping, luggage rooms, mobile charger loan, buggy loan service and pet-friendly spaces, depending on the needs of each centre.
“We have also made considerable investments in technology that enables us to offer a unique, consumer-first experience. When done right, platforms and technology can increase engagement, optimisation, and differentiation. To capitalise on this opportunity, NEINVER is investing in customer and market knowledge through tracking tools such as geolocation systems integrated into a unique CRM platform – providing a first-mover advantage to retailers alerted to new demand signals and outstanding cross-promotional opportunities to tenants – and a brand new loyalty programme that will maximise consumer knowledge and allow us to offer exclusive, personalised and relevant content and benefits to our customers,”
Moreover, to drive sales during lockdown and when mobility restrictions were in place, the company introduced virtual shopping across its entire portfolio, a move to allow brands to provide their own tailored shopping guidance via phone, WhatsApp or email and customers to browse and buy items from the comfort of their own homes. Work is also underway on new omnichannel solutions such as appointment booking tools and click-and-reserve services.
Embracing digital is just one part of a broader effort to fine-tune our proposition to brands and shoppers. However, in today’s world, outlet and shopping centre operators must not only adapt to the rapidly changing consumer preferences ushered in by the age of the internet, but also to the growing pressure to cut emissions across the built environment and retail industry. Over a decade ago, we redefined our business model, integrating sustainability as a core component. As a result, all our centres are now BREEAM In-Use certified and all new developments are designed in-line with BREEAM New Construction standards. Moreover, all the electricity used, which accounts for 90 per cent of total landlord-controlled energy consumption, comes from renewable sources, and all their centres offer sustainable transport options. At San Sebastian de los Reyes The Style Outlets, in Spain, they recently integrated a car-sharing service, and they are on track to roll out mobility plans for every centre in the portfolio.
“We know there is still much to be done and we’re laying the groundwork for an era of accelerated sustainability – setting ourselves new and ambitious sustainability targets to meet both our stakeholders’ expectations and keep pace with the climate clock. We understand that it’s no longer enough to simply reduce our impact on the planet and that is why we’re looking also at how we can use our scale to effect good and positive change on our planet, and in turn, our communities,” comments González.