Via Outlets boosts growth in 2019 on upgrades, tourists and new brands
Via Outlets, the European premium outlet centre operator, said it saw strong growth in 2019, with increases across all metrics as remodelling works, new brands and a tourist focus all paid off.
The company, in which British property giant Hammerson has a major stake alongside joint venture partner APG, said it saw an 8.4% increase in brand sales to €1.16bn last year. It also saw a 6.1% uplift in footfall, which means those who visited its malls spent more per head. And its visitor numbers totalled 32.2m during the year.
Several centres passed new footfall milestones, including Mallorca Fashion Outlet with close to 5.3m visitors, Vila do Conde Porto Fashion Outlet (5m+) and Zweibrücken Fashion Outlet (4m+).
Freeport Lisboa Fashion Outlet reported the strongest footfall increase, with a 12% year-on-year rise to 3.3m, and it also recorded the highest increase in brand turnover at 20%. This followed extensive remodelling and upgrading works as well as 14 new store openings in the past year such as Gant, Boggi, Karl Lagerfeld, Liu-Jo, Faconnable and Havaianas.
The company said its figures “demonstrate the increasing attractiveness of an ever improving portfolio and the resilience of the outlet sector compared to the headwinds faced by wider, full-price high street and retail markets”.
CEO Otto Ambagtsheer said of the results: “Our portfolio continues to deliver exceptional results with growth across all fundamental metrics, proving once again that our strategy is working well.”
So what exactly is that strategy? Well, as the improvement at the Lisboa location shows, investing in outlet upgrades and adding new brands is key.
Via is Europe's fastest growing owner-operator of premium outlet shopping destinations and said the wider performance last year was reinforced by this continued remodelling programme and the introduction of new brands.
Four centres undertook significant redevelopment works in 2019: Wroclaw Fashion Outlet in Poland, Sevilla Fashion Outlet in Spain, Zweibrücken Fashion Outlet in Germany and Hede Fashion Outlet in Sweden. The works at Hede Fashion Outlet, added 2,376 sq m and resulted in a 37% like-for-like increase in the number of visitors in Q4.
Remodelling will continue this year, with works completing at Vila do Conde Porto Fashion Outlet in Portugal. In Q1, work will also start at Oslo Fashion Outlet as well as a relaunch of Zweibrücken following additional remodelling.
The firm’s portfolio of remodelled outlets now includes over 1,100 stores totalling 267,000 sq m and by the end of 2020, it will have undertaken remodelling works across all 11 centres. A total of €200m has already been invested since the company was formed in 2014.
And what about brands? In the past 12 months, 31% of the portfolio has also been re-merchandised and 128 new brands have joined the various malls. These include Ajax, Frederique Constant, Liu-Jo, and Coccinelle. Brands such as Adidas, Hugo Boss, Diesel, Karl Lagerfeld, Calvin Klein, Superdry and Gant have also opened further stores and/or upsized existing stores.
Head of leasing Jorge Sánchez Mera added: “Re-merchandising is a cornerstone of our strategy. We work collaboratively with our brand partners and as a result we are seeing existing brands choosing to expand within the portfolio, while we are also pleased to have welcomed a whole new set of retailers. It’s becoming overtly clear that outlet centres are now considered an essential channel in any successful brand’s sales strategy. More and more retailers are seeing outlet centres as a good source of revenue – plus there is the added benefit of reaching new customer segments and markets.”
But the company hasn’t only been prospering the back of investment in upgrades and brands. It has been carefully targeting the right kind of customers too as the uplift in what each visitor is spending shows.
With many of of its outlets located in some of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations, “the continuous leveraging of European and non-European tourism has been an important factor for growing both footfall and sales,” it explained. This is supported by a significant rise in tax-free sales, up by 17% over the past year across the entire portfolio. Even mature markets such as Batavia Stad Fashion Outlet in Amsterdam and Freeport Lisboa Fashion Outlet in Portugal saw increases in this metric by 21% and 29% respectively.
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