On June 24, 2020 at 5pm CET, ACROSS–The European Placemaking Magazine welcomed the participants of the already fourth edition of the ACROSS Retail Talks. Due to Covid-19, the event took place online with the crisis-related headline: European Outlets–back to normal?
From Vienna, ACROSS publisher Reinhard Winiwarter welcomed the many participants and handed the reins over to Klaus Striebich, the Managing Director of RaRE Advise from Besigheim, Germany who is also a member of the ACROSS Advisory Board. He introduced the star-studded online panel: Otto Ambagtsheer (CEO of VIA Outlets), Stephan Fickl (Group Leasing Director of Neinver) as well as Thomas Reichenauer (Managing Director of ROS – retail outlet shopping and member of the ACROSS Advisory Board). Mario Schwann (Center Manager of McArthurGlen Designer Outlet Parndorf) joined the panel later on. Striebich explained to the virtual audience that they could ask questions by using the chat function–participation was free, by the way. This opportunity was seized quite frequently.
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Three topic ranges
The discussion focused on three topic ranges and started with “The crisis and its impact”. Fickl emphasized that the main concern at any time was the safety of customers, tenants, and staff. The reopenings led to the question how to accommodate as many guests as possible and still comply with distancing regulations. Footfall is generally returning. Customers are currently spending less time shopping and make their purchases in a more deliberate manner than before the crisis. According to Reichenauer, customers readily accepted the new safety measures. For example, security staff was expanded. Ambagtsheer emphasized in this regard that open-air outlet centers have a clear advantage right now. Customers feel more comfortable and safer out in the fresh air. VIA Outlets had already established protocols for this crisis situation by the end of January.
The second topic range comprised “Retailers & Brands”. Schwann, who joined the discussion at this point, was talking about brand partners in this respect. The practiced and fair collaboration with retailers forms the foundation for success in the European outlet center industry. Fickl, Ambagtsheer, and Reichenauer agreed wholeheartedly. All of them also agreed that there is no one-mix-fits-all solution for tenants and that each case requires an individual approach. According to Ambagtsheer, beauty brands are on the rise. Fickl agreed and mentioned Rituals as an example. He also sees brands of outdoor sports gaining ground and stressed the importance of pop-up areas for online retailers. Reichenauer was glad that all shops at all ROS-managed outlet centers had reopened; up until that point, Covid-19 did not cause an ultimate breaking point for them. He also said that fashion brands remain important, but food & beverage as well as entertainment become increasingly relevant.
„Looking ahead into the future“ was the title of the third topic range. Ambagtsheer’s prognosis is deliberately positive. He talked about a brighter future and feels vindicated by the solid rebound figures at VIA Outlets. The industry’s main concern is and will have to be to provide a perfect day out for its guests. For Fickl, the rebound figures were better than expected. He believes that the outlet center market will continue to grow, but he expects a certain degree of consolidation–even among brands. Reichenauer believes that intensifying the already mentioned brand partnerships will be particularly important in the future. These are long-term partnerships that have to remain that way. Schwann also sees the industry well underway towards the future, also because the industry is successfully making its move to the digital realm
The next ACROSS Retail Talks on exciting European topics are being planned right now. We will keep you posted.