By  on December 27, 2000

MILAN -- Exactly one year after the groundbreaking ceremony, the first Italian outlet opened last week in Serravalle, a strategic location an hour away from the cities of Milan, Turin and Genoa.

"Outlets are still very much a novelty in Italy, and, during construction, I've been asked the most bizarre questions -- people in the area wanting to know how many rooms there were going to be, or how many golf holes," said Luca de Ambrosis, general manager of the Italian branch of BAA McArthur Glen, the Anglo-American company behind the project.

BAA McArthur Glen is a joint venture between the Washington, D.C.-based McArthur Glen, which runs outlets in the U.S., and British Airport Authorities, one of the largest owners of retail space in England, which manages several sales points at international airports.

De Ambrosis said the company has had to work closely with local authorities and the people in the area to explain the concept of outlets, how they don't conflict with traditional retailing, but actually help create new jobs and infrastructures.

"Eventually, we had the best support and works just went full-speed ahead, enabling us to complete the first phase of the project in one year, as scheduled," said de Ambrosis. The Serravalle outlet currently lists 62 stores in a 195,000-square-foot area. In addition to apparel, the outlet offers sporting goods, accessories, housewares, children's wear, beauty products, innerwear and a food court. Prices are discounted from 30 to 70 percent. By next summer, the second phase will be completed, with the addition of 60 more stores.

"Our goal is to complete the fourth phase by 2002, when the project will include 185 stores, a sports complex, a museum on cycling -- a sport favored by Italians -- and a cinema, covering almost 500,000 square feet, on a three-million-square-foot parcel, making it the biggest outlet in Europe," said Joey W. Kaempfer, president and chief executive of BAA McArthur Glen.

In Europe, the company currently controls six outlets in England, two in France and one in Austria. Another location will open in Scotland next month. Kaempfer said BAA McArthur Glen plans to begin construction of two outlets outside Florence and Rome in about nine months and a third outside Venice in 15 months.

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