The future of outlet malls: Enhancing the omni-channel experience - Beyond Retail Industry

The future of outlet malls and the role of digital innovation and omni-channel retail strategies were discussed on 15 June in a digital session dedicated to outlet malls as part of the build-up to MAPIC 2021.

This online event also provided a unique and exclusive opportunity to discover how the outlet malls and outlet stores will be showcased at MAPIC 2021, which takes place in Cannes, France from 30 November to 2 December this year, after being held digitally alongside LeisurUp in 2020.

Speakers included Helen Cahill, senior success officer, Coniq; Luca De Ambrios Ortigara, founding partner and CEO, Dea Real Estate Advisor; Sonia Fontana, international and travel director, Le Tanneur; plus moderator Lisa Wagner, principal of The Outlet Resource Group.

“The good news is that spend is up. There has been a strong bounce back for the second opening. Perhaps some of the customers were more cautious for the first opening, but are more confident for the second one,” said Helen Cahill, senior success officer, Coniq, as she opened with feedback on how European outlet malls are currently performing.

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However, she added that the nature of the consumer base had changed across the European outlet sector, given the ongoing lack of international tourism, impacting the future of outlet malls.

“Obviously tourism has fallen away this last year and a half. We’re starting to think more about domestic tourists, who might not have shopped the [outlet]centres before,” she said. “How do we best incentivise them to come and then return? It will be really interesting to see how that traffic changes as tourism starts again.”

“This year has been such a catalyst for change for everybody. And it’s really been very much about understanding and adapting quickly, which the customer has done. And the retail and the centres have absolutely been following. Keeping one step ahead of the customer, both on a transactional and experience level.”

Luca De Ambrios Ortigara, founding partner and CEO, Dea Real Estate Advisor, said that this would require the retail outlet sector to re-examine the way it evaluates locations.

“Ideally, we should redefine the metrics,” he said. “The Italians have started to discover their own country, so for example last summer the Adriatic coast was packed and probably will be this year. The ideal solution is that you have a strong local catchment and can attract long-haul tourists. Going forwards in the future we will definitely be looking at locations that are not 100% reliant on long-haul tourism.”

US-based moderator Lisa Wagner of TORG, said that this echoed experiences in the States and added of the future of outlet malls: “We are noting that customers are spending more as they come out of hibernation. One thing we aren’t seeing is the long haul traveller, which is coming as a bit of a shock for outlets that were relying on that customer.”

Both Ambrios Ortigara and Wagner also pointed to new names looking at outlet centres as Ambrios Ortigara said that some new brands are looking at outlets as a low-risk test and reflected: “I have faith going forwards.”

Wagner said that in some of the US outlet malls TORG managed, the destinations had begun acting as “an incubator” for new names testing out physical retail and the shopping experience.

While retailers are increasingly looking at digital opportunities, Sonia Fontana, international and travel director, Le Tanneur said that only 14% of the premium brand’s customers are cross-channel and that there are clear differences in purchasing dependent on the channel used.

“The customers that are buying online are generally buying the cheaper pieces. The customers in our stores tend to buy the larger and more expensive pieces,” she said. “Customers are very careful about how much they spend and the value for money. Because we are known for our quality, we think our customers are very focused on outlets for great value and high quality.”

The key going forwards is adaptation, she added, predicting: “When it comes to digitalisation and the client experience, outlets need to adapt and propose a digital service and find a way to shop without having to go to the outlet. Brands that will be successful are the ones that will be able to adapt when it comes to new ways of shopping.”

Concluding, Wagner said that designer outlets need to “move beyond a bricks and mortar operation” in terms of expanding their operations, while Ambrios Ortigara warned that destinations and retailers need to adapt to new consumer behaviour: “Nothing is granted, consistency is fundamental, look beyond, think outside the box.”

How to enhance the omni-channel customer experience in outlet destinations is available on-demand and is part of MAPIC’s overall theme for 2021, People and Places: A New Chapter, which will bring together MAPIC, LeisurUp and The Happetite. It is part of a series of digital events, which will provide valuable insight on a range of topics and trends.

MAPIC, LeisurUp and The Happetite will be held together at the Palais des Festivals, Cannes, France from 30 November to 2 December.


To watch the full panel session, click here


Learn more by following these: amsterdam opening for outlet sector joint venture, designer outlets expansion and extension and five key trends reshapring the designer outlet market.

About Author

Mark Faithfull is Editor of the MAPIC Preview and News Magazines, as well as Editor of online publication and analysis specialist Retail Property Analyst.

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