Why have you decided to open in Istanbul?
Istanbul is Europe’s largest metropolitan area, with a population of 15 million. It is a growing, vibrant market, with an expanding middle class, and it is also a young market, with the average age around ten years younger than in Europe’s more mature markets. In terms of retail, we believe the sector is now sufficiently mature to support the opening of two luxury-anchored McArthurGlen Designer Outlets - one on the Asian side and the other on the European side.
Istanbul offers everything we look for in a market: an exceptionally strong local partner in the Fiba Group, Turkey’s leading international financial and retail group; a large catchment, with significant local purchasing power and a love for fashion; a spectacular tourist destination–Istanbul is the sixth most visited city in the world; and a developed local fashion industry. We are also looking for further opportunities in Turkey.
Where else are you expanding?
We are currently under way with our largest development pipeline in McArthurGlen’s 20-year history. We have over 250,000m² (2.7 million ft²) of new designer outlet space under way or in planning. This includes new centers and expansions of existing centers. In addition to our two new Istanbul centers, other new McArthurGlen centers include: McArthurGlen at Vancouver International Airport, to open next spring as our first Designer Outlet outside Europe; Provence, France, the first designer outlet in the South of France which will open in 2016; and new Designer Outlets in Ghent, Belgium, between Brussels and Bruges, and in Remscheid, Germany, between Cologne and Düsseldorf, located in two of Europe’s largest and wealthiest catchment areas.
What is your view of the shopping experience?
We look to deliver the finest designer outlet experience: to provide a shopping experience that thrills our consumers, and entices them to come back time and time again.
Our domestic shoppers drive an average of 50 minutes to go shopping at a McArthurGlen Designer Outlet, and then spend an average of three hours at the center. They are attracted by finding their favorite aspirational luxury and premium brands with year-round savings of 30-70%, and it does not stop there. Every single point of contact with the customer must be engaging and exciting. We live in a ‘linked in’ society.
We do this through our marketing activities; this autumn, for example, we launched our global Denim Icons campaign at our centers. We also do this digitally, through social media and our websites; and through the events we hold at our centers–from McArthurGlen’s Vintage Fashion Festival, to our annual Summer Music Festival and the many Late-Night Shopping Events that we hold across Europe, with fashion shows and additional special offers and it does not stop there.
The McArthurGlen shopping experience is also about the way our centers are designed, the village-style experience, the facilities, the customer service, the fit-out of the stores, the special welcome we give our tourist shoppers. In short, we work hard to make an all-round, best-in-class experience.
Do cultural differences influence the way that you operate your designer outlets in different locations?
The love of finding a bargain appears to be universal–especially when it comes to finding your favorite luxury and premium brands at a bargain. We then adapt our Designer Outlets to appeal to the local catchment. This is in particular with regards to the brands on offer. We look to include the most sought-after brands–from among our nearly 900 brand partners–for each catchment. The architecture and offering of our centers is also adapted to reflect local styles and culture: for our Mediterranean centers, for example, near Athens and Naples, the food offering is very important for local shoppers, so we have many more cafes and restaurants.
Cultural differences also need to be considered among the many long-haul, international travelers who shop at our centers. We have tourism sales & marketing offices in China, South Korea, Southeast Asia, Brazil and Russia, all very important markets for our centers, and the way travelers from these markets shop and the brands they like all need to be taken into consideration when planning a new center.
How would you describe the next generation of outlet centers? How has the designer outlet transformed over the past 10 years?
The outlet experience has been transformed. Looking at McArthurGlen Designer Outlets today, the customer is walking into a luxury retail environment. We often describe what we do as the full-price retail experience at outlet prices. The only thing ‘outlet’ is when the customer pays at the till.
We are now designing and building the next generation of designer outlets. We are paying even more attention to where we build them, how these sites can be reached, how we build them, what they offer and how they fit into the surrounding tourist landscape.
What we are also seeing is that the partnership between the designer outlet operator and the brands is becoming increasingly important. It’s not about leasing stores–it is about working in partnership with the brands to maximize their sales in each particular market.
For the brands, the advantage of opening at a McArthurGlen Designer Outlet lies in reaching a new customer who may be accessing their brands for the first time. When that customer walks into the store of a luxury brand, they have a genuine, authentic experience of that brand. If the first time they buy just a great pair of sunglasses, the next time they are likely to buy more. It’s an incredible gateway for the aspirational shopper.