2020 was a year we will never forget, as UK retail faced the harsh landscape of lockdowns, social distancing restrictions and a lack of disposable income due to the repercussions of COVID-19.
Outlet shopping locations however have performed well by comparison, taking advantage of off-season stock and large destinations.
Icon Outlet at The O2, which offers over 60 fashion and lifestyle brands, previously revealed sales grew by 30% between the first week of reopening on 15 June, post-lockdown, and week 12.
TheIndustry.fashion spoke to Marion Dillon, Leasing Director for Icon Outlet at The O2, about the future of outlets, the successes of 2020 and what direction the retail destination may head towards next.
What are the most appealing aspects of the trading opportunity at Icon Outlet?
It is all to do with the experience. Brands want to position themselves where consumers are, and accessibility is also key.
Most outlets are drive-to destinations and this is also a key part of our visitation, however, we are also uniquely connected and have an incredible public transport infrastructure on the doorstep of Icon Outlet; accessible via the Jubilee Line (just 15 mins from central London), River boat services including either Thames Clippers or Uber Boat Services, and Emirates Cable Cars.
What does the future of the outlet offer look like for Icon Outlet? What brands are you looking to target next?
In 2020, we achieved lettings to over a quarter of our top target brands. We hope that we continue this momentum in 2021. Our fashion and lifestyle offering has grown with additional anchor brands, such as BOSS, Tommy Hilfiger Kids and Lacoste. All these openings show we are continuing to deliver a premium offering to our consumers.
Next Outlet is a great addition to our high street offer, especially for our strong family customer base, alongside the best of British and international brands.
We are also keen to attract more athleisure lifestyle and premium UK and global fashion brands. It’s no secret that we are continuing to target more of the bigger players in the outlet market.
Following the opening of Selfie Factory are you looking to add any more experiential type offerings to Icon Outlet, or The O2?
As we are the world’s number one music and entertainment venue, The O2 is certainly a natural place to incorporate experiential retail and new leisure concepts. Brands such as Selfie Factory provide easy accessibility for our younger demographic to participate in and this concept has really taken off with our millennial and Gen Z visitors.
Last year we also signed TOCA Social for a 30,000 sq ft site that will host the world’s first interactive football and entertainment venue. This brand-new concept will add to the destination day-out experience at The O2, and we are confident it will help us attract everyone from teenagers coming independently, to families and friends meeting for social gatherings, and also for corporate events.
TheIndustry.fashion also caught up with Janine Constantin-Russell, Managing Director of Icon Outlet at The O2:
Icon Outlet at The O2 is quite unique in not only its location but the amount of open space – how has this space changed or been adapted during lockdown?
We’re really pleased the measures put in place the first time round ahead of re-opening have been robust enough to last through all three lockdowns and tiered restrictions. For example, our one-way system remains in place and we have consistent signage throughout, via both our digital and physical platforms.
A reminder of the measures we put into and remain in place include:
- Wearing face coverings at all times when visiting Icon Outlet.
- Installing clear signage and playing audio announcements.
- Promoting one-way systems where they apply; requiring visitors to keep to the left.
- Payments only accepted via cards or contactless.
- Thorough cleaning regimes, with additional hand sanitising stations provided.
- The location of bathroom facilities have been separated to reduce queues.
- In addition to the enhanced measures, many retailers have changed their internal store layouts to provide more room and easier navigation.
Each store had adapted its premises to retain a comfortable shopping experience whilst promoting social distancing with advisory signage, queues for popular stores, and reduced capacity.
What are your thoughts of the future of the outlet market?
The future for outlets is bright. Over the course of this year as city centres have become less busy, outlet shopping schemes have found themselves at the choice of a new generation of customers looking for their retail fix.
With huge numbers of premium fashion, lifestyle and beauty brands in a single location and a great value proposition, their appeal as day out destinations will continue to remain relevant.
For brands, they will continue to play a vital role in introducing new customers to their products and beginning the journey from outlet to full price loyalty.
TheIndustry.fashion took a look at the safety measures implemented at Icon Outlet at The O2 as lockdown relaxed in June 2020: