VIA Outlets gets boost from centre upgrades and tourist spending
VIA Outlets released its 2018 sales results on Wednesday and said that increases in both footfall and average spend per visitor helped drive brand sales up to €1.07 billion.
The five-year-old Anglo-Dutch company owns a portfolio of 11 premium outlet centres across Europe and welcomed more than 30 million shoppers in 2018 with brand sales up 9.3% in the year, despite footfall only rising 3.5%. Average spend per shopper was up 5.6%.
VIA’s main investors are UK property giant Hammerson and Dutch pension fund manager APG and it’s operated by Bicester Village operator Value Retail and asset manager Meyer Bergman. Its centres in nine European countries include more than 1,100 stores (139 of them new last year) and it claims to be the fastest growing owner-operator of premium outlet shopping destinations on the continent.
COO Otto Ambagtsheer said that the company “continued to perform strongly across several different metrics, despite difficult wider retail market conditions,” last year and added that “the outlet sector is one of the few retail segments which shows resilience to this market turbulence. Furthermore, we see that the decision to focus our operating model on re-merchandising, re-marketing and remodelling our existing portfolio is paying off.”
The company has been spending heavily to upgrade its centres in the last three years and saw double-digit brand sales growth last year at upgraded locations such as Batavia Stad Fashion Outlet in The Netherlands, Freeport Lisboa Fashion Outlet in Portugal, Mallorca Fashion Outlet in Spain and Landquart Fashion Outlet in Switzerland.
Jorge Sánchez Mera, Head of Leasing, said: “The VIA Outlets portfolio, now home to well over 580 different brands, re-merchandised 25% of its portfolio in 2018. This was achieved through new store openings, upsizing and downsizing existing stores and trialling pop-ups, all of which resulted in over 80 new brands joining our portfolio.”
Newcomers to its centres included Polo Ralph Lauren and Scalpers in Freeport Lisboa; G-Star Raw and UGG in Zweibrücken Fashion Outlet in Germany; Nikkie and BALR in Batavia Stad; H&M and Mammut in Landquart; as well as Lacoste and Scotch & Soda in Wroclaw in Poland. “All of these brands proved successful from their first day’s trading,” we’re told.
So with the 2018 strategy having clearly been a success, what has the company got planned for the future? More of the same it seems. Since its creation, it has invested over €125 million to remodel and extend its centres and last year, €29 million was set aside to remodel three locations with a view to offering a better shopper experience in 2019.
One of these was Hede Fashion Outlet in Gothenburg, Sweden where a new extension will open this October 2019, while the other two, Sevilla and Wroclaw, should see their remodelling works improving the overall guest experience in 2019.
In Q4, “significant” remodelling works will also start at Vila do Conde Porto Fashion Outlet and Zweibrücken.
TOURISTS SPEND MORE
Ambagtsheer also highlighted the importance of tourism to the company and said that “a special focus remains EU and non-EU tourism, as we can see that tourists spend more than the average guest.”
In order to improve the shopping experience for non-EU shoppers, on-site tax refund offices have been opened in eight of VIA Outlets’ centres, offering visitors services that are normally only available at airports. These have been “very successful” and the company has seen that tax refund sales in these centres “out-perform the respective city centre sales in terms of growth.”
This year will also see VIA further consolidating its loyalty reward programme. It launched its own programme, called Fashion Club, last year and it was the first of its kind in the outlet sector.
“2019 will be the year when the entire portfolio will enjoy the benefits of Fashion Club,” Ambagtsheer said. “Members of the programme are spending on average 30 to 35% more than non-users, while having a longer dwell time in the centres and an above-average revisitation rate. Thanks to the proprietary data provided by the scheme, programme-participating brands also get a much better understanding of who their key customers are and how they can segment them even better.”
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