British-owned designer outlet centre landlord McArthurGlen Group opens its first North American location today in Vancouver, featuring several of the world's top brands. The outlet centre expects to add more luxury brands in the coming months, and the company says that it is looking at other Canadian cities if the right opportunities become available.
Located beside Templeton Skytrain Station on land owned by Vancouver International Airport, the 240,000 square foot McArthurGlen Designer Outlets features about 80 retail spaces -- the majority of which are leased. McArthurGlen plans to expand the existing centre by another 140,000 square feet within the next two years, eventually housing about 150 retailers.
In May, we published a list of confirmed retail tenants which was provided by McArthurGlen. Noticeably absent were a number of luxury brands typically associated with the company's European centres. We recently spoke with McArthurGlen Marketing Director Shaeren McKenzie, who explained how it is typical for some luxury brands to locate at its centres post-opening. She specifically mentioned the company's outlet centre in Venice, Italy, which opened in 2008 at only 40% capacity. Only a handful of luxury brands were initially present, though that changed as the centre's leasing team secured names such as Valentino, Fendi, Prada, Marni, Bottega Veneta, Brioni, Gucci, Jil Sander, and others. Ms. McKenzie explained how McArthurGlen has relationships with over 900 brands, and how a number of premium labels are expected to eventually open at the Vancouver outlet centre as negotiations continue -- some brands like to wait and see how a centre will 'turn out', she said.
Currently, confirmed luxury brands for the Vancouver centre include Giorgio Armani, Ports 1961 and Hugo Boss. A selection of 'better' brands includes names such as Cole Haan, Polo Ralph Lauren, Coach, and Tumi.
Ms. McKenzie said that if the right opportunities became available, McArthurGlen could possibly expand further into Canada. She stressed, however, that the company is busy with outlet mall projects in France, Spain and Turkey. Designer outlet centres are a relatively new concept to Canada -- the first such centre, Toronto Premium Outlets, opened in the summer of 2013. Canada is currently home to only five designer outlet centres, though plans are in place for several more over the next three years. Retail Insider's Craig Patterson is currently finishing an Applied Research study with University of Alberta School of Retailing to determine potential locations for future Canadian designer outlet malls, concluding that the country can support up to 20 such centres.
Ms. McKenzie explained how McArthurGlen is different from other designer centres. Besides higher-quality centre design, the company features a 'retail academy' to help train staff in serving a variety of customers, including locals and tourists. Language courses are offered, which prove beneficial in locales attracting a wide variety of visitors. Ms. McKenzie explained how Vancouver is a desirable market for McArthurGlen, as the region features a relatively fashion-conscious, affluent population as well as extensive tourism, particularly from Asia. She says that McArthurGlen expects exceptional sales growth at the new Vancouver centre, both from locals as well as from an expected increase in tourists over the next several years.