It’s been an eventful year for Janine Constantin-Russell, managing director of Icon Outlet, the premium outlet centre housed at The O2.
Storm Eunice kicked things off in a brutal manner, giving the centre a hammering that caused damage to its roof that forced it to close.
However, due to what Constantin-Russell terms the “extraordinary efforts” of her team, it started the phased re-opening of the centre just one month after the storm hit and ever since visitor numbers have soared.
“Since then, we’ve gone from strength to strength, with periods of record sales and welcoming a host of new brands to the destination,” she says.
“It’s this strong bounce back which is a testament to how hard-working, committed and focused we are as a team, as well as our commitment to delivering a best-in-class experience for our customers, despite unprecedented circumstances.”
As Constantin-Russell says, Icon Outlet has benefited from a throng of high-profile new signings.
The outlet centre, which launched in 2018 with 30 stores, now houses more than 60 brands that all offer up to 70% off goods with Superdry, Reiss and Hackett among the recent new signings.
Constantin-Russell says: “As you can tell, we never sit still at Icon Outlet – even when storms hit! – and have been able to welcome several high-profile new brands to our retail line-up over recent months.
“We are always looking to diversify Icon Outlet’s tenant mix to ensure we are appealing to our broad visitor demographic here at The O2, and so it’s great to see renowned brands such as Superdry endorsing the importance of outlet shopping locations.”
A gamble that’s paying off
Icon Outlet occupies 210,000 sq ft at the famous The O2 venue, formerly known as the Millennium Dome, in a space within The O2 that was originally intended to house a casino.
It appears that the gamble to open an outlet centre amid a giant entertainment venue has paid off judging from this year’s performance.
Sales at the centre from May to November jumped 15% against 2019’s pre-pandemic levels, as it saw “positive growth” in footfall across both Icon Outlet and its leisure offer The Entertainment District.
Any fears that big music or sports event would not go hand-in-hand have been well and truly allayed as Constantin-Russell says the return of live events to The O2 has helped to boost sales.
She uses the example of tennis tournament the Laver Cup, which was held at The O2 in late September.
The event, which happened to host Roger Federer’s last ever professional match, helped to drive “a significant surge” in both footfall and average transaction value, according to Constantin-Russell.
“As a cross-campus event which spanned multiple site locations across The O2, the Laver Cup was a huge success all round, and both Icon Outlet and the Entertainment District recorded their highest ever combined sales, seeing an increase of 43%,” she says.
“It was a fantastic 360° event experience for fans – from the fantastic range of activewear and athleisure brands available in Icon Outlet including Nike and Adidas, through to the mesmerising action in the arena.”
A merry Christmas
Inevitably, Constantin-Russell’s thoughts are firmly on Christmas right now and she is feeling rather merry.
“After experiencing a successful year for footfall, events and overall destination-wide performance, we are confident that we will experience a strong festive period and end to the year, which will be anchored by our newest retail pop-up store with Reiss, our busy competitive retail prices, and a jam-packed calendar of arena events,” she says.
A key part of its offer that will be helping to attract visitors this Christmas is its wide array of leisure options.
Experiential concepts such as Boom Battle Bar, where visitors can partake in everything from shuffleboard to beer pong, to immersive football and dining experience Toca Social and trampoline and party specialist Oxygen Freejumping should ensure plenty of Christmas parties are held at the centre.
It is also set to open London’s first indoor skydiving attraction this week to expand its leisure offer.
Constantin-Russell has a reason to be more confident than most in retail this Christmas, as many shoppers grappling to buy gifts amid the cost-of-living crisis may turn to outlet centres.
“Now more than ever, outlet shopping destinations are hugely relevant to the modern-day consumer.
“Whether it be the cost-of-living crisis, the desire for a 360°, day out destination, or the ability to shop designer brands at amazing prices, outlets respond directly to the modern day consumer needs,” she says.
“Icon Outlet in particular is surrounded by a compelling mix of leisure, food and beverage and the world-famous arena, which gives us a key point of difference and makes us unique to any other destination in the UK.
Expect the Christmas tills to be ringing at Icon Outlet.
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