Chic Outlet Shopping by Value Retail is planning to strengthen its ties with the trade in 2016 as it pushes ahead with expansion in Europe and China.

The company, which operates nine shopping villages in Europe including Bicester Village in Oxfordshire, opened a new train line between Oxford and London last month to improve access via public transport to the shopping village.

Chiltern Railways invested £130million in the new section of rail network that will make the journey to Bicester Village Station from London in just 46 minutes and will help to promote the destination to a wider domestic and overseas audience.

In Ireland, 33 new shops, a restaurant and a cafe have opened in Kildare Village just outside Dublin following an investment of 50 million euros. Value Retail has also opened its first village in China as the country continues to grow as a shopping tourism destination. The Suzhou Village will soon be joined by the Shanghai Disney Village, which is scheduled to open in spring.

The luxury outlet shopping specialist has also teamed up with Hilton Worldwide to offer visitors to its shopping villages the opportunity to earn points on the hotel group’s loyalty programme Hilton Hours when they make purchases at its nine European villages. It is the first time that Value Retail has partnered with a hotel group.

Thibault Ruffat, head of European tourism – global marketing, said Value Retail is more keen than ever to work with agents: “With all our expansion plans and the strong pound making shopping in Europe more appealing than ever, we are working with agents to sell our shopping tourism products.

“We have two products agents can sell: the Shopping Express package which allows them to offer their clients transfers from airports or central destinations to any of our villages in Europe for 15-28 euros, which we offer them at a net rate; or the second package which is transfer, lunch and a gift card.”

Ruffat said the company will also continue to offer fam trips throughout 2016 to its villages, and will continue to offer incentives to help grow sales through the trade: “These are an important part of our marketing strategy as experiencing our shopping villages is the best way for agents to sell the experience.”

He said that the most popular packages are the ones that include visits to attractions close to its villages: “We are keen to be part of the community that our villages are based and not just a shopping destination. We like to partner up with local hotels, attractions, tourist offices and airlines to promote the region rather than just our villages. For example, with Bicester Village, we include a visit to Blenheim Palace and Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in a package that agents can sell.

"Our average dwell time for visitors to our villages is four hours so it is important that we encourage them to experience other nearby attractions.”

Ruffat added that the fastest growing sector is the MICE market: “Incentive trips and events are particularly big in southeast Asia and we are in a good position to meet the needs of this market.”

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