As non-essential retail continues to reopen, The O2 has been steadily reopening its facilities including its urban outlet mall where average transaction values have jumped post-lockdown.
Icon Outlet at The O2, which offers over 60 fashion and lifestyle brands reopened Monday 15 June as part of a gradual reopening approach for the world’s most popular music, entertainment and leisure venue.
The urban outlet has introduced enhanced measures within its clean and contemporary surroundings to ensure health and safety remains the highest priority for everyone visiting and working at the venue.
TheIndustry.fashion can exclusively reveal that that the average transaction value has gone up 30% from pre-lockdown – with 50% less footfall and 30% less trading hours. The units per transaction has also risen.
TheIndustry.fashion went to see the measures that have been put in place at The O2, including it’s shopping facilities – Icon Outlet at The O2:
Up at The O2 has also reopened its doors, offering a more intimate and memorable experience with enhanced health and safety measures in place. Each climb has been reduced to less than half the capacity previously in place.
Opening daily initially from 11-5pm, the new measures adhere to government guidelines, and include:
- 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 payments.
- 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.
TheIndustry.fashion sat down with Janine Constantin-Russell, Managing Director of Icon Outlet and the Entertainment District at The O2, to discuss the how the venue has dealt with reopening since lockdown:
What is it that makes The O2 differ from other shopping destinations?
Our first stand out proposition is out value proposition. As an outlet on a general day, everything we have is up to 70% off, now more so than any other time people are really looking at how they spend their money and what they spend their money on. It really makes a big difference for us that our customers get that value. Money just goes that little bit further and we’re able to let people treat themselves that little bit more.
For me, retail is about that experience – nobody needs anything that they buy, most of it is a luxury or something that they want. I think here we’re able to provide that experience in an environment that feels safe, with a really high roof and natural ventilation, it makes us different to any other shopping centre – we’ve got that space here to make people feel at ease.
It’s also about not only the experience that people have in stores but as they move around the venue. Now that we’ve got little bits of food and drink opening and Up at The O2, it really turns the destination into something that you can do for more than a couple of hours in the day. It really feels like a place to take the family or friends, go shopping or have an experience and then have a bite to eat.
We really value our local customer. We’ve become a local hub and community – I see young mums meeting here with their kids and people are using our space as a community space now and I feel very sure that you can’t do that in the high street or any other shopping centres.
Do you think that the large open space benefits those young parents with prams?
A pram is the worst thing you can have in a busy shopping centre. The shape of The O2 means screaming kids voices don’t travel, if you were in a regular shopping centre something like that would probably make you feel really anxious. I think we appeal to our local residents like that and this has been an opportunity to really connect with them.
When we have the arena open, we have the distraction of 20,000 people coming here that may have come for another reason, where as right now we’re just focusing on the shopping and what we do with our customer, how we allow them to behave freely but in a safe environment. Focusing on our local customer and the safety is definitely our point of interest.
What measures have gone into make the venue safe, is there a comprehensive list you’ve gone through?
We not only had a comprehensive list – we had a plan, we had a timeline of what would happen and when it would happen. Between myself, the team, the retail industry, our security team and other security measures we spent a week brainstorming – going through the guidelines we had and the space we have here. We then went and walked it, so we walked different areas and experienced how measures would feel and what they would look like.
We’re the worlds’ largest music and entertainment venue, so we really understand how people should move around our environment and we took the guidelines that were instructed and went through everything we needed to do: signage, digital signage, floor markers, safety distance when people sit down.
After we opened on that first day, we regrouped and went through what worked, what didn’t work and we do that on a weekly basis. We change things slightly on a weekend when its busier, such as closing toilets.
How has Icon Outlet operated since reopening?
We’re experiencing half the footfall of a non-event day, which feels about right. We’re trading 30% less hours (between 11am-5pm) which came from working with the tenants and thinking about footfall and staff. By reducing hours by 30% we also help tenants reduce their payroll by 30% so they don’t have to bring as many people back from furlough while we are still building that trade.
Talking to tenants, they all feel that if we did extend the hours they wouldn’t feel as comfortable as they do now. Some of the other considerations for the tenants – if they start trading at 11am the staff have to get here for 10am, so their tube journey is safer and they’re not travelling with the masses. We’re also offering free parking for our staff, as well as free parking for our customers, to make them feel as relaxed as possible.
The average transaction value has gone up 30% from pre-lockdown – with 50% less footfall and 30% less trading hours. The units per transaction has also risen, so people are coming here and spending more money. We’re doing a disservice if people walk away without a bag.
Where does the plan go from here?
We’ve created pillars of a strategy around a 100 day plan – the 100 day plan can move a bit because we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, let alone in 100 days. We’ve opened and we understand what we are dealing with. We’ve changed our conversation with tenants, so instead of asking “what are you doing?”, we’re asking “how are you doing?” which is part of our strategy to share the burden.
As we open up more and as the entertainment district opens more, as the cinema opens at the end of July, as children go on their holidays – we’ll find a normalisation. We will always keep our core value of our value proposition and our experience that you have when you’re here as a destination rather than just a shopping centre.
Our plan will feel like its fruition when we can open our arena, but until then I’m taking advantage of the grassroots marketing, understanding our local catchment area and what the customer will want going forward.
Everyone is saying that retail will look different but retail has needed to look different 6 months ago. We started making changes 6 months ago, so the way we have our relationships with brands and customers, the choice of products that we elevate for them – we’ve been doing this for a while. Adapting throughout the circumstances we’ve faced is sustained as opposed to brand new.