Forget the link between “outlet” and “downgrade”.
According to outlet colossus Value Retail, the large number of outlet villages offering high-end clothes and accessories at heavily discounted prices can become important allies for the luxury sector and do more than just supply the convenience factor.
By offering customers a unique and highly polished shopping experience. Take Value Retail outlet villages, for example – they all adhere to strict standards in terms of the aesthetics of the communal areas and the way each individual luxury store is set out.
The organisation wants to convey prestige and allure, not sloppiness and laxity.
According to Scott Malkin, the founder and president of Value Retail, it is an approach that has paid dividends. Over 37 million shoppers have visited the villages since the first Value Retail centres opened, while the group has registered constant, double-figure growth since 1995. These extraordinary figures have been helped by the dynamic nature of the consumer markets in places such as China and the Middle East.
So how do outlets position themselves within the high-end luxury sector?
Strategy is key.
Sometimes, outlets are used as an additional sales channel for luxury boutiques and large flagship stores. The brand maintains total control and decides how present and past collections are distributed. The traditional approach is to push on-trend clothes in boutiques and use outlets as a great way of selling collections that are no longer being produced – and thus capitalise on revenue that would otherwise be lost.
Clients are well aware of this too, so when they’re looking to snap up that hot accessory they’ve just seen on the catwalk, they head to the full-price mono-brand store. But when they’re buying a basic garment that’s never going to go out of fashion, outlets can be a great way of getting what they want without compromising on luxury and quality.
At the same time, outlets virtually never replace full-price boutiques.
That’s according to research conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, which states that luxury newbies who purchase a high-end product in an outlet for the first time (30% of all customers) feel such a sense of satisfaction from owning a top-quality product that they want to repeat the experience, but on an even bigger scale. A full 85% of those customers who approached the luxury market through outlet stores were happy with their chosen brand and were planning on purchasing again, but this time at a full-price mono-brand store.
So, unlike the food sector, where a focus on aggressive promotions – with discounts and vouchers galore – seems to have got customers used to rooting out the lowest available price, outlets tell a different story.
It’s all down to a meticulous focus on positioning and perfecting the image that customers have of outlets.
It is only by looking after the entire purchasing experience and customer journey – and by demonstrating the value of quality goods to customers – that outlets can truly establish themselves as the entry-level channel of the luxury sector, where high-end brands can score vital wins without selling themselves out.
It’s time to transform luxury into something we no longer take for granted.