Outlet malls to see more urban locations and hybrids - report

The recent expansion of Bicester Village and last week’s McArthurGlen sales announcement show just how strong outlet malls are at present. But while giant out-of-town centres have been the driving force of the sector, a new report says that urban schemes are where much future growth is going to come from.


The O2 at Greenwich will be the location for a major urban outlet mall right on central London's doorstep


The new Retail Revolutions Report from Savills & Seven Dials Outlet said growth is already being seen in urban outlets as well as in hybrid schemes. And footfall to such locations has risen 10% since 2012, while average spend has risen from £51 to £72.50 and the number of shoppers visiting between three and 11 times per year is up by 10%.

While outlet centres have traditionally favoured out-of-town locations, the report said market data suggests that a more centrally located supply “could increase market penetration.”  How so? Well, less than 33% of outlet shoppers visit more than once a year but half of all consumers make a local shopping trip every week, making the case for locating closer to areas of high population density.  

Schemes such as Princes Quay in Hull, which mixes outlet stores and full-price stores in one city centre shopping mall, are key here. But also interesting will be the planned designer outlet at The O2 Arena in Greenwich, south east London. This would bring outlet shopping to a location that’s just a very short hop by public transport into central London. It would be the closest proximity of a large concentration of designer discount stores to their equivalent full-price stores in Britain.

And it really does make sense for mall operators to capitalise on existing footfall by choosing locations served by public transport hubs or close to other retail and leisure locations. 

Meanwhile, ‘hybrid’ doesn’t only mean mixing full-price and discounted in one location, It can also refer to varied product categories and the inclusion of leisure options to make an outlet mall trip more of a day out.
 
The report said the typical size of UK outlet centres has grown from 80,000 sq ft in 1995 to 140,000-200,000 sq ft in 2017, largely driven by an increasing leisure offer. Restaurant provision has doubled since 2011, now accounting for around 8% of units at outlet centres across the board and upwards of 10% at many schemes. The provision of cafés and takeaways has also increased by over a third.  

In fact, at London Designer Outlet, 29% of units are occupied by cafés and restaurants, while Ashford Designer Outlet’s expansion will add six food & beverage (F&B) brands.  
  
Tom Whittington, retail and leisure research director at Savills, said: “For consumers, the evolution of outlet centres means lines have already begun to blur with other types of shopping destination. Creating a fully hybrid offer that blends outlet with leisure, F&B and full-price retail is the next step in attracting a wider range of visitors, increasing sales and ultimately turnover and profit. We see further scope for outlet centre development in more urban settings, working in harmony with other forms of retail and leisure.”

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