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Left: Café operator Etto at the Lakeside Village in Doncaster. | Right: Realm’s Leasing Director Christine Grace. Credit: Realm

Why outlets are the place for the independent retailer

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the message to the UK has been to shop local and support your community during the incredibly difficult period that we all faced. Even as town and city centers began to open up again, independent retailers have maintained their position in the spotlight of the retail industry, be it bricks and mortar or online.

By Christine Grace

Buying with a conscience 

More people are thinking about what they buy and where they buy it from–as the messages from international events, such as COP26, and figures like Greta Thunberg increasingly feed into public consciousness. Independent brands have been able to capitalize on this–building brands that align with this ethos and don’t have to rely on the history and reputation synonymous with larger chain businesses. Consumers want to know that their money is going to organizations that are driven by a sense of morality and community mindedness. 

Exploring new locations 

During lockdown this came to the forefront and independent retailers gained the confidence to set up shop in locations that they had not previously considered. As a consequence, outlet retail destinations are seeing increased interest from these independent brands. 

At Realm, we have completed on numerous signings throughout our national portfolio that prove the attraction. Café operator Etto is a great example of this as it has joined both Lakeside Village in Doncaster as well as Dalton Park in Durham collectively taking 480 sq m. Another occupier to have signed up to both assets is House of Cavani, known for its men’s suits and shoes, it’s taken 313 sq m across these two prominent schemes further proving the outlet models’ tailored fit for the independent retailer. 

Milsom Place in South West England has also seen the signing of three new independent brands including Italian hairdressers and beauty salon NOI, Bosco Pizzeria and Spanish café and deli Vero’s, collectively taking ca. 552 sq m. 

A cognizant management approach 

These new and niche businesses positioning themselves in prime retail locations can present a challenge and asset manager flexibility is key in this endeavor. Many are entering the bricks & mortar world for the first time and require support from the asset manager to make it work. Realm has been able to help tenants in this position by pulling together operational teams with on-the-ground experience. In doing this, we are able to adopt a collaborative approach with retailers and offer support with everything from fitting out to the point-of-sale set up. This can really set the basis of a successful partnership for both manager and occupier. 

And when it comes to figures Realm’s standardization in the use of its sales data collection and turnover lease structure allows us to work with the retailer and see where things can be improved. All in all, it positions these independent retailers in a brand-new environment that meets their needs and supports their expansion towards becoming tomorrow’s chain.