What percentage of customers to your Villages are tourism-related and how does this vary from Village to Village? i.e. what’s the most popular Village for shopping tourism and why?
All the Villages in Europe have established themselves as international tourist destinations in their own right; indeed Value Retail, creator and operator of the Collection of Villages, is a pioneer in the ‘shopping tourism’ category. Indeed since 2006 the Collection of Villages has delivered consecutive quarters – without exception – of double digit growth in tax refunded sales.
What are your biggest source markets worldwide and why?
For Europe, the biggest source markets are China, Russia, the Middle East and South East Asia. Value Retail is the only company to specialise exclusively in the creation and operation of luxury outlet shopping destinations. The Villages in Europe are home to leading luxury fashion and lifestyle brands offering savings of up to 60%, and sometimes more, on the recommended retail price, all year round and all within easy reach of some of Europe’s favourite gateway cities – London, Dublin, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Bologna, Brussels, Antwerp, Cologne, Frankfurt, and Munich. The Villages are defined by high fashion, superior service and hospitality, a calendar of celebrated events, and exceptional value for money. We offer our guests curated shopping experiences and world class services.
How important is the UK market (compared to other source markets) to each of your Villages and what are you doing to boost UK tourism visits in terms of branding, packages, awareness, incentives, promotions etc?
The UK market is extremely important to us. Bicester Village was the first Village to be created and we celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2015. The Village has traditionally attracted guests from the surrounding region, London itself, and beyond. Located 20 minutes from the university city of Oxford and close to the Cotswolds, amongst other iconic tourist destinations, Bicester Village is a convenient and obvious addition to an itinerary within the region – for UK as well as international tourists. In addition, Kildare Village, just outside Dublin, attracts tourists from the UK. Just last fall, Kildare Village, near Dublin, added 33 new boutiques in a new expansion. This will provide the Village’s international guests with a greater variety of Irish and international luxury brands, in addition to enhanced hospitality services.
We believe we are alone in creating such a fantastic destination shopping experience – even if a guest is travelling a short distance down the road, it still feels like a treat.
We offer our guests Gift Cards, Shopping Packages, a VIP Lounge, Personal Shopping, Hands Free Shopping. In addition, for guests based in London, we now offer direct access from Marylebone Station to the Village with the recently opened Bicester Village station, literally adjacent to the Village. We also offer guests the Shopping Express®, a daily, luxury coach service that whisks guests from stops in central London to the Village and back.
How are you working with the travel trade and the industry in the UK to boost sales?
We organise multiple FAM trips, sales missions and local hosted events to further build our reputation as a strong industry partner.
What trends have you noticed in terms of the UK market’s shopping tourism habits and how are you leveraging those trends?
More and more, consumers are leaning towards a more memorable and meaningful experience.
Our research tells us that 90% of people shopping crave a meaningful experience and 60% of millennials prefer spending money on experiences; 8 out of 10 people crave human interaction. We believe our Villages deliver on what our guests crave: multi-sensory, curated shopping experiences and world-class service.
What’s new for Value Retail Villages that will appeal to the UK market?
We are constantly evolving our offering and this year we have had a number of important developments across the Collection.
‘Bicester Village Station’
On 26 October 2015, Chiltern Railways unveiled a new train line between Oxford and London; the first rail link to be constructed between a major British city and London in more than 100 years – enabling guests to arrive at the Village, from London, in as little as 46 minutes. The new section of rail network creates a seamless commute for locals from the new Oxford Parkway station at Water Eaton to London, via Bicester Village. Guests travelling to Bicester Village Station by rail are welcomed at the state-of-the-art facility, which leads to the Bicester Village Information Hub; a chic destination furnished in marble, mirror and luxurious furniture. Here, guests can discover a selection of superior services to enhance their experience in the Village in convenience and style. The services available from the Information Hub include a Luggage Drop facility and Hands-free Shopping – a shopping collection service that arranges guests’ shopping to be ready to collect at their point of departure.
Kildare Village Expansion
Kildare Village, near Dublin, has added 33 new boutiques, a new restaurant and café. The €50 million investment will provide the Village’s international guests with a greater variety of Irish and international brands, in addition to enhanced hospitality services.
First Global Partnership with Hilton HHonors
Value Retail announced its first global hotel partnership with Hilton HHonors, Hilton Worldwide’s established loyalty programme. HHonors members, spanning the company’s portfolio of 12 world-class global brands, are now provided with the opportunity to earn points on purchases made across the nine European Villages by Value Retail. This new partnership with Hilton offers our mutual customers added value as they shop and earn rewards with Hilton HHonors. As operator of luxury retail destinations, Value Retail shares similar values to Hilton Worldwide, in that we endeavour to offer elevated luxury experiences for all guests to the Villages.
In 2016: There is further development planned, including the opening of Shanghai Village this year. Shanghai Village – the second Village by Value Retail in China, opening spring 2016 and located in Pudong New District – is strategically located adjacent to Shanghai Disney Resort at the heart of a Chinese government multi-billion US dollar master plan, the Shanghai International Tourism and Resorts Zone. Shanghai Village will be one of the most important shopping tourism destinations in Asia.
What general/worldwide shopping tourism trends are you noticing?
The Chinese luxury consumer is now the number one consumer of luxury worldwide with 35% of the total consumption according to our tax refund partner Global Blue. We have certainly seen this within the European Villages where China is the number one non-EU market across the board.
According to the ILTM Global Luxury Travel Trends report, China has the highest number of HNWI’s in all emerging markets with more than 1 million people. By 2030, however, this number will rise to 3 million, making it the fifth highest in the world.
The same report predicts that Chinese outbound travellers are predicted to reach more than 87 million by 2019. This can be attributed to the increasing disposable income of these travellers, encouraging travel beyond domestic options.
We are an affiliate member of the UNWTO’ Shopping Tourism Network and their 2015 Global Report on Shopping Tourism states that shopping has become a determinant factor, and in some cases a primary factor, impacting where travellers choose to take their trips. In September 2015 the UNWTO launched its first Shopping Tourism Network to explore the fantastic possibilities that this can offer.
Luxury brands are still showing an inherent focus on craft, personalisation, heritage and originality.