Grantham Designer Outlet Village will be a state-of-the-art retail destination that is being designed to reimagine its visitors’ shopping and leisure experience. RLI sits down with some of the key people behind the project to learn more about this upcoming premium outlet development.
Rioja Estates, the developers behind the Grantham Designer Outlet Village, is a leading Outlet specialist with over 30 years’ experience. Its team has successfully undertaken many designer outlet developments in the UK and Europe. Giles Membrey was instrumental in the birth of the outlet sector in the UK, developing schemes from start to finish, including site selection, through planning, design, construction, funding, pre-leasing, operational launch and asset management. Successful schemes for McArthurGlen include Bridgend, Swindon and East Midlands. Other successes are: Premier Outlet Centre, Budapest; Neinver’s Alpes The Style Outlets, France; The Boulevard, Northern Ireland and ICON at the O2, London. Current projects include McArthurGlen’s West Midlands Designer Outlet and Grantham Designer Outlet Village, Lincolnshire, UK.
Upon completion in 2022, Grantham Designer Outlet Village will become the UK’s only premium outlet with a visible frontage to the A1, allowing direct access from the UK’s third busiest highway. The project has been inspired by the surrounding countryside and its buildings are being conceived as traditional forms with contemporary finishes and high-quality shop fronts.
“Grantham Designer Outlet Village will be a 273,000sq ft development in an open-air village format that will be situated three miles South of Grantham town centre right next to a new junction on the busy A1,” explains Giles Membrey, Founder & Managing Director of Rioja Estates, the developers behind the scheme. “It will house 137 units, including restaurants, coffee shops and a children’s play area, all set in a beautiful environment, designed with landscaped gardens and attractive water features, befitting its rural setting.”
To be split into two phases, the first phase of the project will provide 178,213sq ft of retail with 89 stores and restaurants, 1,700 parking spaces, 25 electric car charger spaces, a coach park, a VIP area rewarding all loyal customers, along with a tourist information centre and pop-up shop that will showcase the retailers and businesses of Grantham. In its second phase, a further 94,809sq ft of retail space will be added which will allow for an additional 48 stores and dining possibilities, more parking, and a further 200 electric car charging points.
A typical Midland market town in a tourist region of the UK, Grantham has to date suffered from the same symptoms as similar towns; a homogenous and insipid retail offer that lacks individuality and personality. Recent initiatives are beginning to change this perception though, as the usual branded fascias are being replaced with more independent retailers and F&B offerings.
“Buckminster, a local property trust with rural, commercial and retail property in and around Grantham have been at the forefront of these changes,” explains Membrey. “They are also the land owner behind Grantham Designer Outlet Village so the aim is to enhance the region further by bringing premium fashion brands that would never go to Grantham town centre, to complement the offer there and provide linked trips to Grantham and surrounding tourist destinations.”
With the project due to be constructed in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, new initiatives are being considered for the scheme in order to keep both guests and staff safe. Initiatives being considered include the permanent and temporary sanitisation points for hand washing, two metre indicators embedded in a sensitive and attractive way in paving and landscaping, extending the window canopies to make social distance queuing more comfortable, app-based virtual queuing systems for car parks, individual stores and restaurants and the creation of a bespoke Grantham Designer Outlet Village -branded online sales platform to improve customer access to brands and create a halo effect in case of future issues.
From the outset of the development, Rioja has kept in close contact with all of its brands and through the crisis this effort has only increased. “Although most of them have been firefighting in their full price business, they have still been very keen to keep conversations with us going, as many have built up overstocks during the lockdown period,” explains Adrian Taylor, Leasing Director at Rioja Estates. “Therefore leasing has continued for Grantham Designer Outlet Village and this has been helped by the fact that we already have signed terms for such brands as Armani Outlet, which sets the tone for the other brands we are in discussions with.”
Progress on-site has been pleasing as Grantham Designer Outlet Village works towards its 2022 opening, and, along with the new Grantham Southern Relief Road which is also being built, this will bring all through traffic directly past the development upon completion.
“Full planning consent has been granted and ratified by central government and we can now announce that all pre-commencement conditions have been discharged. Our section 106 is in place, ready for the start of construction in a few months’ time,” explains Neil Thompson, Operations & Management Director at Rioja Estates.
In these unusual times, social media has become even more important than ever, and during the lockdown period Rioja Estates have seen the benefit to brands and consumers from online channels. For this reason, they have been co-operating with Wishibam, a company already successful in creating online transactional platforms for physical retail stores, especially in outlet villages.
A platform will be created for Grantham Designer Outlet Village which will enable its retailers to offer their stores’ stocks for sale all day every day, for click and collect or home delivery, even in times of lockdown.
“We are also working with emerging technology companies to harness, agglomerate and control the power of social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, which is very exciting as we move forward with this ground-breaking project,” concludes Thompson.