Outlets are indeed showing strong growth against full-price retailing, with the premium and luxury sector driving the growth, and are indeed an attractive safe haven from the retail storm battering the UK and western Europe, as Mickola Wilson noted in her recent comment piece.

Ian Kitchen partner KLM Retail

Ian Kitchen, partner at KLM Retail

However, strong and innovative management combined with carefully considered investment are required to continue to ride the wave.

In the UK in particular, outlets are a mature business and cannot afford to rest on their laurels to remain successful. Once it was enough to offer a roster of well-known retailers all in one place, with eye-catching discounts and perhaps some exclusive product thrown in.

This is still of paramount importance, but as with other areas of the retail industry, customers’ expectations are increasing. It is the customer experience offered by outlets that is key, as more players enter the arena.

The recent FSP/KLM Retail European Outlet Industry Breakfast outlined nine outlets set to open across Europe this year with a 1.42m sq ft total gross lettable area. This is a 17% increase in new floorspace compared with 2017. Highlights are likely to include The Icon Designer Outlet at London’s O2 Arena, Zsar Outlet Village in Finland, The Village at Villefontaine in France and Prague The Style Outlets in the Czech Republic.

The Icon Designer Outlet at London O2 Arena

The Icon Designer Outlet at London O2 Arena is part of a major increase in outlet centre floorspace in 2018

There can be no complacency among owners, managers and brands because the sector is not immune to many of the issues generally afflicting the retail industry today. Outlets must continue to evolve, driving customer engagement with the further development of the leisure and food and beverage offers to provide an all-round experience for all the family that you simply cannot get online.

Some of the latest schemes and expansions are raising the bar even higher and we believe there are plenty of opportunities ahead for owners, investors and brands to maintain their segmentation and point of difference from their full-price counterparts, by creating a vibrant, immersive experience.