How VIA Outlets has bucked the retail downturn

Freeport Lisboa outlet centre

VIA Outlets CEO Otto Ambagtsheer shows Alex Howlett around Freeport Lisboa and reveals how creating centres with local character is helping the firm expand in Europe.

At the restaurant we have lunch at before our tour of Freeport Lisboa, he stops a waiter to praise the starter. Later, he jokingly congratulates Nuno Oliveira, VIA’s regional business director for Iberia, for the panoramic view over the Vasco da Gama bridge, which connects the area the outlet is located in to Lisbon.

Ambagtsheer has good reason to feel proud. Since the company was founded in 2014, it has acquired 11 centres across nine countries, making it the fastest-growing owner-operator of outlet centres in Europe.

Having achieved double-digit growth in the first half of 2019 and increased footfall by 8%, it is now worth £1.6bn – at a time when many retail landlords are struggling to stay afloat. So what is it about this “new kid on the block”, as Ambagtsheer describes VIA, that has enabled it to defy the odds?

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