Panel Talks Luxury Outlets in the Lower Mainland

YVR Outlet Mall | BCBusiness
The Vancouver Airport Authority’s 375,000 sq ft open-air mall will launch next year.

Luxury store outlets are major players in the current disruption of the retail landscape—and Vancouver is late to face this worldwide gamechanger

That was the overarching message from a lunchtime panel of leading retail experts held at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia in Downtown Vancouver Wednesday.
With the arrival of such developments as Ivanhoé Cambridge’s 1.2 million square foot Tsawwassen Mills in 2016 – due to house equal parts outlet and regular tenants – and Vancouver Airport Authority’s partnering with European developer McArthurGlen for a 375,000 sq ft open-air designer mall launching next year, the province was playing catch up with their popularity in Europe and the U.S., the audience of 45 was told. (Other examples include Holt Renfrew recently opening a new outlet concept, hr2, at Ivanhoé’s Vaughan Mills in Ontario.)
“We’ve definitely lagged behind the rest of the world,” said Raymond Shoolman, a senior consultant of the Vancouver-based retail strategist DIG 360 Consulting Ltd. and former vice-president of Hugo Boss, who pointed out the history of the outlet malls in Europe and U.S. evolved from factory stores that used to sell off unwanted inventory at discount prices. “As they saw there was profitability there, something they could really get into, some of them started opening up individual, separate stores outside of the cities and developed a different channel.”
Although moderator David Ian Gray, president and founder of DIG 360, believed the rise in these types of outlets was now fuelling an “exciting” era for retail, he added that it was also causing much “uncertainty”.
Working out who would be the winners and losers, David Baffa, senior vice-president of retail development at Ivanhoé Cambridge, suggested that there was a different clientele for the outlet stores. “People will always go towards the full-line shopping centres to get the current brands, the current trends,” he said, adding that outlets were now magnets for the value shop.
Those retailers with strong brand recognition held the key to success, according to Shoolman. “Outlet malls are becoming prevalent, they are becoming important where in previous years they have been relatively unimportant,” he opined. “We’ve seen a lot of smaller retailers really get squeezed out of it because the consumer loves brands.” When it comes to buying premium, luxury goods, he believed physical stores often win over online as buyers “really want to see it, feel it and touch it, because the reality is you’re not buying it for $100 – you are still spending a fair amount of money.”
In terms of these “tremendous changes” in retail – also including U.S. companies opening in Canada and shopping channels – they should be the concern of all connected to retail, including landlords, Shoolman added. “If you are in the business of leasing to retailers, then you are all retailers,” he stressed, “and you should be very interested in this conversation.”