Highlighting shopping destinations as a major touristic driver, CEO, Value Retail, Desirée Bollier speaks exclusively to TTG on Chic Outlet Shopping’s expansion east and the importance of the Middle Eastern shopper.
TTG: What are the latest news and developments at Value Retail?
We recently expanded our French village La Valée Village with the opening of 20 new boutiques. There is a great brand assortment perfect for the sophisticated Middle Eastern shopper. There is a lot more choice to come too, including a new flagship Burberry store. All the villages have introduced 20 new brands. We have been remarketing each village and have been quite busy renewing the existing offerings and expanding them. For instance, Fidenza Village outside of Milan now has Bluemarine, Loro Piana and Diesel World.
Our model is to be constantly on the pulse of the trend and to make sure the sophisticated shopper is coming through the doors and visiting at least twice a year. We will have more jewellery, shoes and handbags and during the past year we have particularly focused on elevating the entire hospitality concept. For example, had an existing VIP room but renovated it. It can now be utilised to groups of ladies, either for a full day or afternoon, should they want to visit any of the villages, either through travel partners or through packages. The appetite for such hospitality has been in high demand.
We are also introducing the Suzhou Village in China. It is a logical location, just 25 minutes express train from Shanghai. The concept is of shopping express door-to-door luxury. Our number one consideration is ease of accessibility. People could book online through tour operators to ensure the seamless ease of the journey. Suzhou has a silk and embroidery heritage and was praised by Marco Polo as the ‘Venice of the East’.
TTG: Who are your main feeder markets? Do you have plans to expand anywhere else?
In terms of Value Retail’s top three feeder markets, China is our number one, followed secondly by Russia and thirdly by the Middle East.
One territory at a time, we want to deliver the absolute experience that we have managed to deliver in Europe so far.
TTG: How important is the Middle Eastern market to Value Retail?
The Middle East is up 38 per cent in the UK; up 66 per cent in France; up 99 per cent in Spain; up 34 per cent in Italy and up 94 per cent in Germany. This market is extremely important to us, so we are keen to make sure they feel welcome.
From January to September 2012, the Middle East was in our overall portfolio at number two, which was an increase of 52 per cent on average of the global sales portfolio.
Kildare Village was up by 123 per cent following the launch of flights by Etihad Airways to Ireland, as well as other incentives available in the country such as golf courses. This is staggering growth for us and we will continue to drive that. The reason we are up is that the Villages are becoming more relevant, brands make it more attractive and we know what the customer wants and we build more relevancy into that market.
Based on Q3 2012, the average spend for each [tax refunded] transaction was $379. Word of mouth has worked beautifully and we rely on that.
TTG: What makes Value Retail’s offering unique?
Hospitality. All Villages and staff embrace cultural diversity as welcoming is extremely important to us. We have the highest standards of cleanliness: it is more than presentation, it is the authenticity of what we stand for.
TTG: Is shopping becoming a touristic driver? And how important is it to attract tourism to the region in which each village is situated?
I believe shopping has always been a touristic driver. We have managed to capture it, identify it and recognise it. It is a very important activity that our customers desire. For instance, Kildare Village near Dublin creates a four-day trip for husbands, wives, children, or just a group of friends. It could tick all the boxes – great food, art and fashion. That is the new way of travel.
The relationship between the Village and the region is extremely important. The region carries the Village and the Village carries the region. It is a holistic relationship. For example, Bicester Village within Oxfordshire works closely with hotel partners and spas to package the region.
Our partnership with Etihad Guest has helped immensely with members to claim miles upon shopping at any of Chic Outlet Shopping villages. Some travel trade partners we they are dealing with are Kanoo Travel/Holidays, Al Rais Travel/Holidays, Regency Travel, Global Holidays; Al Jarallah, Dnata Travel/Holidays and more. These partners work with us in offering their clients Chic Outlet Shopping products and packages as an add-on to their booked holidays to Europe.
At trade shows, we started our round tables to raise awareness of shopping and tourism as a trend. It was there but it was not recognised. It is extremely important for attracting the right tourists to the major capital cities.