[Interview] Thomas Reichenauer, ROS: the outlet centres are well received in Poland

SCF 2020 CEE Exhibitor

I can assure you that our portfolio in Poland will be enriched with new tenants. We are in contact and negotiation with a network of more than 500 partners across Europe," says Thomas Reichenauer, Managing Director and co-founder of ROS Retail Outlet Shopping. Representatives of this company will be able to meet and talk to each other during the autumn edition of SCF 2020 CEEof which ROS Retail Outlet Shopping is an exhibitor. 

Currently there are 3 Designer Outlet centres in Poland. What are the plans to expand your portfolio in the coming months? 

The extension of the Designer Outlet Warsaw centre is on track, despite the prevailing covid-19 pandemic. The opening of the first stores in the extended part will take place just before Christmas. After the expansion, Designer Outlet Warszawa will have an area of 22 800 sq m. GLA and will be one of the largest outlet centres in Poland, and at the same time one of the most unique - all thanks to the offer of premium brands. Apart from the extension of the centre itself, the new multi-storey car park with about 500 additional parking spaces and the renovated food court, which is located at the atrium, in the very heart of the facility, deserve attention.

And what is the situation with the other objects? 

We plan to expand and modernize both the Designer Outlet Gdańsk and Designer Outlet Sosnowiec. The first stage of these works in the case of the facility in Sosnowiec will be to improve the car park, which will provide about 600 new parking spaces. It also involves the reconstruction of the main entrance on the north side, which will facilitate access to the centre for customers. The medium-term objectives for both facilities are to improve the catering facilities, as well as to increase retail space. All this is aimed at modernising our centres. We want to maintain their position as a desirable shopping destination on a regional scale as well as a tourist attraction.

Can we expect new brands to appear in your facilities?

A number of new brands are definitely expected to debut. We are in contact and negotiation with a network of more than 500 of our partners in Europe. However, please understand that at this stage we cannot list or announce which brands are specifically targeted. However, I can assure you that our portfolio in Poland will be enriched with new tenants.  

The Designer Outlet centres are already the first choice for many brands, also from the premium segment. This is happening not only in Poland, but also on other markets where you operate.  

We have over 20 years of experience in this business and know what is really important. When we founded ROS Retail Outlet Shopping in 2011, our vision was to create a new outlet operator that is modern, innovative and does not follow the beaten track. Our success proves that this concept was right. We operate ten centres across Europe and are looking forward to the opening of our first Spanish outlet centre, La Torre Outlet Zaragoza, which, despite the unfavourable conditions associated with the current pandemic, will take place in October 2020. Our team proves every day what professional management of retail facilities is all about. Of course, success would not be possible without close contact and understanding of the needs of our customers and business partners. 

You mentioned the coronavirus pandemic situation. What were the negotiations with the tenants during this crisis? 

Our goal is always to achieve a win-win situation, i.e. a win-win situation that is beneficial for both parties. Together with our partners across Europe, we are able to develop a system of rent rebates that will be a satisfactory solution for all parties.  

How do you generally assess the current condition of the retail market in Poland?

Without a doubt, the retail market in Poland is one of the most mature and competitive markets in Europe. Poland was also one of the first countries in Europe to adopt the concept of outlet centres. Currently, thanks to the positive economic development in recent years, the retail real estate sector in Poland continues to grow. Many international fashion and lifestyle brands would like to restructure their distribution policy in Poland, others would like to debut on this market. Without a doubt, Poland is becoming an increasingly attractive and important retail market on a European scale.

What do you think will be the direction of changes in the retail market, including those related to the coronavirus pandemic? 

The great winner at the time of the pan-European lockdown caused by covid-19 was e-commerce, but when the reopening of traditional trade was allowed, people all over Europe again appreciated the real shopping experience. Moreover, traditional shopping locations are also becoming important for players with a strictly e-commerce background, such as Amazon and Zalando. The common goal of all players is to create such places that will respond to the needs and expectations of modern customers. The outlet centres have already proved their strong market position once, achieving double-digit growth during the financial crisis in 2008. In the future, it will be important to analyse individual locations of the centres in terms of further growth, use of the potential of the mixed-use concept, expansion of food courts, as well as the entertainment component. One should not forget about the progressing digitalization of trade and building an unforgettable shopping experience. Only the combination of all these elements will ensure final success. 

And do you think the coronavirus pandemic has permanently changed customers' buying habits?

We see that once the trade is defrosted again, categories such as sport, casual fashion, beauty and lifestyle, as well as premium brands, are doing really well. A similar trend was evident in all our centres in Europe. Therefore, we will constantly strive to further modernize all three centres in Poland. The most important thing is to win and keep as many loyal customers as possible - our VIP loyalty program was created for this purpose. Digital marketing and social media have been and are a great tool to maintain our customer relations, both during and after the lockdown. Special thanks are also due to our team, which ensures safe shopping in all our centres on a daily basis.