During the World Travel Mart 2015 held from 2 until 5 November 2015, Gaya Travel Magazine caught up with Mr. Marcelo Molinari, Director of Group Tourism for Value Retail, a company that specialises in the development and operation of luxury outlet shopping destinations.
Value Retail operates a collection of luxury shopping Villages – nine in Europe and two in China – that are aptly labelled as Chic Outlet Shopping®. These Villages are close to the cities that are internationally renowned for shopping such as Paris, Barcelona, London, Milan. According to Mr. Molinari, Value Retail has been registering double-digit gross sales growth since the first Village, Bicester Village, opened in 1995, with the Villages in London (Bicester Village), Paris (La Vallée Village), and Barcelona (La Roca Village) being among the most popular.
What makes Chic Outlet Shopping® successful is the Villages’ welcoming open-air concept, efficient hospitality services, Value Added Tax (VAT) refund facility and airline reward points accumulation. But of course, the real draw are the savings of up to 60% – and sometimes more – on the recommended retail price that shoppers can take advantage of at these Villages, making the Chic Outlet Shopping® experience attractive and real value-for-money.
Malaysians love visiting the Villages by Value Retail in Europe – especially Bicester Village, located just outside London (www.bicestervillage.com) – because they can conveniently buy local and international luxury brands at outlet prices. Each Village carries not only international brands, but also brands that are specific to the country where a Village is located. Besides Bicester Village, Malaysians would also be happy to visit Paris and shop at La Vallée Village for specifically French brands and local flavours. The same goes with the designer outlet Villages in Spain and Italy, where tourists will be able to find Spanish and Italian brands respectively.
Mr. Molinari said that in Europe, Value Retail is growing the size of its Villages. “We recently opened 38 additional boutiques in Kildare Village near Dublin, Ireland. The Villages that have added additional boutiques in La Roca Village, just outside Barcelona. Maasmechelen Village, located outside Brussels, continues to add new boutiques.
“The real development is in China. Suzhou Village opened last year and will soon be opening a second, called Shanghai Village, which will open in May 2016. It is located next to the Shanghai Disney Resort in Pudong. The Village is surrounded by an amazing lake with boats provided for people to cross over,” Mr. Molinari describes. Besides locals, shoppers from the whole of Asia will be able to experience Chic Outlet Shopping® at Shanghai Village while visiting the Disney theme park without having to travel out of the region, making it a great destination for families and shoppers alike.
Why does Value Retail decide to open in China? “Value Retail has built a Collection of Villages that are widely recognised as leading destinations. Shopping is at the heart of this offer but it is the immersive experience, the unique setting and hospitality and exposure to art and culture that transforms the experience from just shopping into a memorable escape from everyday life. It makes sense for them to come into Asia through Value Retail since the company works directly with the brands to create a carefully curated selection of merchandise for the Asian guest. The boutiques feel like their full price counterparts—there is nothing ‘discount’ about them,” Mr. Molinari clarifies.
When asked whether Value Retail would expand to other places in Asia, Mr. Molinari answers that Value Retail continues to expand its offer in Europe and in China at present and that Value Retail works closely with brand partners to ensure that it complements their international expansion strategies.
Bicester Village and new train station
To the uninitiated, Bicester Village is already an immensely popular luxury shopping centre that brings together more than 130 designer outlet boutiques at discounted prices of up to 60% off the recommended retail price.
“We notice that tourists, including those from South East Asia, like to discover new brands, as well as finding the brands that they are attracted to or know already. I know that Longchamp bags are famous among Malaysians. When Malaysian tour groups come, the Village’s boutiques make sure that they have the most appropriate stock. As a matter of fact, according to 2015 tax-refunded sales, visitors from Malaysia at Bicester Village generate the fourth highest average non-EU spend after China, Kuwait and Hong Kong,” states Mr. Molinari.
Mr. Molinari foresees that the opening of the new Bicester Village train station is set to draw more guests. It is now less than a 50-minute train ride to Bicester Village from Marylebone Railway Station heading towards Oxford Parkway. Before the opening of Bicester Village train station and service, it used to cost more time and money for shoppers to get there since they needed to head to Bicester North station first and then take the shuttle to Bicester Village. The cost of the return ticket, which is £24.60 for off-peak period, is less than what travellers had to pay previously, making the trip more affordable.
Mr. Molinari adds that Bicester Village Station will be the driver and facilitator of new business. “If you come with luggage, you can drop your luggage at our convenient Luggage Drop. You can also book the Hands-free Shopping service if you want to simply leaving your bags at the boutiques. When you return to the station, your bags will be waiting for you. Our hospitality service, which is enhanced, starts and ends at Bicester Village Station,” Mr. Molinari claims.
Upon arriving at the station, shoppers can obtain VIP Cards at the chic Bicester Village Information Hub, entitling them to an additional 10% saving on their purchases. “When Value Retails receives a group from Malaysia from one of our partners, we offer them VIP Cards that give them additional 10% saving. Knowing that they receive the VIP Card, purchases become ever more affordable. They can also claim back tax,” notes Mr. Molinari.
Shopping at any of the Villages by Value Retail entitles Malaysians to earn airline points through reward programmes such as Lufthansa’s Miles & More, KLM’s Flying Blue and even Malaysia Airlines Berhad’s Enrich. Another facility that makes shopping at Bicester Village more conducive is the contemplation room that Muslim guests can easily use to perform their prayers whilst shopping.
Mr. Molinari emphasised that Bicester Village continues to evolve with new restaurants and additional parking. On that note, Value Retail has also ramped up the Village’s dining mix by opening the new hip
farmshop restaurant & cafe, a cosy and trendy English country-style establishment by the popular Soho House, as well as itsu, an Asian-inspired restaurant chain founded by the pioneer of Pret A Manger, Julian Metcalfe. “If you want to do it properly, it would now take you more than a day to cover all boutiques,” Mr. Molinari cautions, smilingly.