Roger Saul to expand Kilver Court fashion outlet mall
Roger Saul has unveiled an ambitious expansion programme for his designer outlet village, Kilver Court, based in South West England, with plans to add 40 more stores, a restaurant and possibly a hotel on the back of an investment spend of up to £10m.
Saul, who founded Mulberry in 1971 but was ousted in 2002, opened Kilver Court in Shepton Mallet, Somerset five years ago. Along with CEO Freddie Saul and retail director Monty Saul, he has steadily grown the footprint of the family business since then. But the new announcement will mark the biggest expansion yet.
Following the enlargement, which will be completed in four phases, the centre will cover 80,000 sq ft with 130 brands generating £67m in sales and foot traffic of 1m people annually. That compares with the current 28,000 sq ft hosting 55 designer brands. The site also features garden and event space covering 70,000 sq ft.
The centre currently hosts stores for brands including Joseph, Mih jeans, Whistles, Pringle, Winser London, LK Bennett, Jack Wills, Toast, Rapha and Yves Delorme.
The move comes after the company has seen a 30% rise in like-for-like sales in the 2015/16 financial year to reach sales of £11.2m, with an average transaction value of £360.
Saul said his experience with Mulberry, where he ultimately lost control of the business as a result of currency fluctuations, meant he was determined to create a retail business model that would be future-proofed against such issues.
He spotted the trend for retail centres that offer experiences rather than just stores and opened Kilver Court because he believed Somerset had huge potential in terms of growing tourism and residential appeal. He also saw the need for more retail space in distinctive historic environments that could buck general retail trends and defy downturns.
Kilver Court is on the site of historic textile mills and Saul originally purchased it in 1996 as the headquarters for the Mulberry brand and factory shop.
Somerset itself is an in-demand area enjoying a residential property boom and attracting a large number of affluent consumers to buy there.
“We launched at a time when one in four shops in market towns throughout the country were closing and general retail was suffering due to increasing popularity of online shopping,” Saul said. He added that rather than starting from the idea of creating units that'd to be filled with retail brands, Kilver Court grew organically in response to consumer demand.
“This means that we approach the customer experience from a more curated point of view. One of the most famous principles in retailing is ‘retail is detail’ and this philosophy is prevalent in everything we do. We believe constant innovation is vital,” he said.
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