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March 2024 – Technology Profile – ART Software Group

Reinventing Retail Assets

March 2024 - Technology Profile - ART Software Group 1

In this Technology Profile, RLI speaks with Gareth Jordan, Director at ART Software Group, an experienced software house and Outlet Evolution, clients of ART’s industry- leading Retail Advantage platform made for shopping malls, outlets and retail portfolios to discuss how innovation has proved to be an essential partner for growth.

Outlet Evolution Services is a specialised company in the Outlet Sector, managing and leasing over five different outlet centres in the Central European Region. By relying on a network of preferred partners, be it advertising agencies or innovative service products like Retail Advantage, Managing Partner Sebastian Sommer explains that they keep the costs of centre management as low as possible in order not to burden tenants excessively but also not to reduce returns for investors.

“We value partnerships driven by mutual goals, this applies both to investors and our brand partners alike. All growth is targeted to be sustainable, reflecting profit targets from all stakeholders. While this may sound academic, it’s actually very specific. From mutual business plans to ready to apply analytics and a very flexible commercial marketing approach, we have gradually evolved our management style over the last years,” says Sebastian.

Gareth Jordan, Director at ART Software Group, has a firsthand view of how the right technology partners can help transform retail spaces and create true destinations. Retail Advantage meets operators’ needs with the data environment and insights to achieve their strategy. Many sites, locations and schemes vary in size, explains Gareth – it might be an inner city space with less than ten shops, where it is about nurturing what is there through a very hands on approach combined with real-time feedback and visibility on what is or isn’t working. Or, the objective might be to increase the size of the offering, so the analytics need to show you if the brand mix is working and will remain compelling as you scale.

“Retail Advantage is a tool to garner growth on many levels, whether the objective is to grow in quality, in size and breadth, or maintain a relevant offering. We must all be proactive in fast-changing retail places, so data and analytics are central to that. The product grows with the scheme, which makes it exciting as our platforms are flexible and scalable.”

“Reliability and commitment are key to our business. We build and select our partners based on their attitude to our business and the cutting edge it can bring to us. This is exactly how we teamed up with Retail Advantage.”

Sebastian Sommer, Managing Partner, Outlet Evolution Services

Elaborating on their work with Outlet Evolution, Gareth discusses how Retail Advantage is being used at the destinations. “It is always exciting to be a part of these sorts of projects where we are involved from the early stages to help provide visibility and answer questions on what is working. Outlets have long been an important element in retail but you need a strong and very specific strategy. At Hanse Outlets and Fashion Outlet Marl this has been approached in the best way.”

Sebastian adds: “Seeing, breathing and working with a retail mindset is the key for any successful outlet centre management. With plenty of years in the retail sector, our team provides such know-how, but only with a flexible technology tool kit that provides quick but granular information, the real impact on the business can be brought to life.”

Hanse Outlets is a perfect example of retail reinventing itself. From an old retail park with local, convenience driven offers and DIY stores, the area has seen a constant investment and development over the last six years. With a total of 13,000sq m GLA and over 45 brands, the outlet has been opening its major Phase II Extension throughout 2023. “By the end of 2023 over 2.3 million guests had visited the outlet centre, fueling substantial growth with our brand partners and having delivered the best commercial year ever.”

While Fashion Outlet Marl opened right in the first wave of the pandemic, it has yet to realise the traction the outstanding location will achieve. “Its inner-city location connected to a shopping centre with over five million visitors per annum offers the best of both worlds, convenience shoppers looking for a bargain and day-out travellers enjoying the offers, particularly on Fridays and weekends. Due to intense retail and marketing management, footfall and sales have grown 30 per cent like for like since 2022 and we expect that momentum to continue,” explains Sebastian.

Fashion Outlet Marl’s current footprint of 25 stores will see a major development of over €30M over the coming one to two years, bringing the outlet centre to over 50 stores and making this a true outlet destination within Germany’s most populated region. With a total of over 15,000sq m GLA this outlet can grow to up to 80 stores in the near future.

As our time with Gareth and Sebastian draws to a close, we ask about significant developments and changes for the sector and what excites them going forward.

“Understanding and touching the customer journey while building rapport and loyalty through this has been top of mind for every operator in recent years,” Sebastian explains. There is hardly unlimited growth in footfall as consumers have plenty of choice; therefore, more than ever before, it is about creating true destinations. “It’s a people business, and by continuing to create memorable moments for our guests, we can’t wait to keep on growing. It is obvious that business decisions should consider a data driven layer of information. Not that data takes decisions on its own, but it serves as a valuable advisor.”

Gareth agrees with this and remarks about the essential shift from descriptive insights to more advanced connected retail intelligence. “Experience and expertise will always be the drivers of success. Then it becomes a question of the clarity that the supporting information provides. Getting closer to the moment with the latest data possible; being able to see what the trajectory is now… engaging retail destinations require a level of data-driven analysis that reveals a broader picture to operators so they can take their next steps with confidence. As Sebastian says, it’s a people business, so whilst we are understandably excited about the uptake of opportunities from AI and Machine Learning, our clients’ experience and human objectives will always be at the root of our tools. As they grow, so do we.”