Forty-five minutes by car to the west of Paris, the new center will be located just outside of Giverny, the town best known for Claude Monet’s gardens. It will feature 100 stores and more than 215,200 square feet of retail space. It marks the 25th center for the group and the fourth in France.
“It’s a big investment,” said co-chief executive officer Susie McCabe, ringing up at more than 200 million euros.
A former Under Armour and Ralph Lauren retail executive, McCabe joined the company in 2018 as deputy CEO before becoming co-CEO alongside Joan Jove.
McArthurGlen is targeting a mix of luxury and designer brands and says that nearly 80 percent of the space is now committed, though it would not disclose any names that have signed on. Armani, Roberto Cavalli, Alberta Ferretti, Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Coach and Under Armour are some of the brands available at its other locations.
Bringing in the high-end players is about striking the right balance of brand mix and creating a destination with added amenities that can attract and retain shoppers.
“Brands are also looking to make sure that while the tourism market is shifting, they want to know that we’ve got a game plan to tap into the 40 million people that travel to Paris and the surrounding environs,” she said. “This is a strong tourist location.”
Paris-Giverny expects to draw from the 627,000 visitors that visit Monet’s gardens every year, and is working with other nearby tourist destinations such as Versailles to create packages. The company has also rolled out an extensive global marketing plan to create buzz among tourists before they’ve even set foot on French soil. Anticipating the slow return of Chinese tourists, McCabe said the company has invested heavily in advertising campaigns in other markets.
“We redirected and redeployed our efforts elsewhere,” she told WWD before China reopened earlier this month. “It’s a more segmented approach now than we had before.”
The surge of American tourists in Europe last summer has served the company’s other centers well, while visitors from closer non-European Union countries like Switzerland and Morocco took advantage of the weak currency.
“We have seen real progress and strength out of some of these other markets,” she said, noting that visitors from South Korea and India were higher than 2019 numbers.
McCabe said that like-for-like turnover has bounced back to 2019 levels, and that spend per visit has increased with a “more purposeful” shopper. Footfall in European centers continued to pick up speed over the summer, with Italy and the U.K. “quite vibrant.” Germany, she noted, was the only outlier.
“We’ve been very pleased with the French business and in total it’s really recovered quite strongly. Some of that is consumer confidence; it’s probably less off than other markets. It’s above the European average,” she said. “We’ve certainly seen continued momentum [going into 2023] despite the impact by both the conflict from a Ukraine-Russia perspective, as well as cost of living as well as the energy crisis.”
The discount nature of the outlets could be a benefit as inflation and other economic headwinds hit consumers’ wallets. McCabe said internal research shows that about 80 percent of French consumers “are likely to shop outlets in the future based on some cost of living constraints.” In response to inflation, the marketing team has “dialed up” the discount messaging, she added.
“We believe we are uniquely positioned to capture more of consumers’ spend; we have a very strong value messaging. We’ve got real flexibility in our marketing, and can really focus on the everyday value,” she said. “I know that there’s a lot of, perhaps, negativity and pessimism, but what we’re seeing is a resilient consumer.”
An early attempt at other centers to establish click-and-reserve programs “wasn’t something that customers gravitated to and wasn’t something that was successful,” said McCabe. The developer is working on new types of services for Paris-Giverny. “We are figuring out how do we leverage that to really show what’s in store, and recognize that from a turnover perspective.”
The development seeks to balance the indoor and outdoor environments with double-height facades, sweeping windows and glass and wood elements.
A living wall designed by vertical garden pioneer Patrick Blanc adds what McCabe calls a “wow effect,” and McCabe said the center itself takes up only 35 percent of the 10 hectares of the property to “lessen visual impact,” while 1,000 parking spaces are tucked underground. In a nod to sustainability, the center will have green roofs and use 60 percent of the captured rainwater to maintain the gardens. They’re also working with Join the Pipe foundation to build fountains for refillable bottles.
Though not quite as free-flowing as water on tap, a Champagne bar will feature on the property. The center will have 10 restaurants and cafes with a focus on French food and cuisine from the surrounding region of Normandy. The upscale atmosphere is key for brands signing on to the center.
“There’s definitely some interest from them around the quality of the offer, how much will be available, and if there’s something that speaks to the elevation. That’s where the Champagne bar is important; we’re looking for the right balance between sit-down, and coffee and cafés, as well as really making sure that we’re bringing and introducing things from the region,” said McCabe.
McArthurGlen’s food and beverage play is on trend as shopping centers shift to excursion and entertainment centers around the globe. The focus on F&B pays off, said McCabe.
“What the brands are finding is that the customer that comes and uses the food and beverage, they stay longer at the centers, and they spend more. That’s a way to make it more of a day out,” said McCabe. A playground using the color palette of the Impressionists — playing on the Monet theme — will be on site, as it “increases the dwell time of the parents,” she said.
“We’ve gone back and really looked at our investments, our budgets for the future [and] we are putting more back into the activations and experiences [including] music, art and health and wellbeing,” she said.
Art plays a central role, with installations including sculptures “Moonlight” by Nic Fiddian-Green and “Penelope Waiting” by Emile-Antoine Bourdelle. Rotating installations will be curated by a local gallery.
The center has flexible spaces that can be turned over to influencers for livestreaming or other social content, and the company is working on selecting local stars to partner with as ambassadors. Livestreaming is also on the radar.
“It’s not right for every brand, it’s not right for every center, but it is another interesting way to bring the center sort of outside of its walls and connect with largely a younger consumer,” she said. Influencers might have early access to collection drops or limited edition items that will be “unlocked” for content. “The influencer piece is really great as far as building fashion credentials for us,” she said.
The center is turning over an expansive 21,500-square-foot space to local artisans, the Maison de Metiers d’Art, to showcase their works. McArthurGlen brought in internationally renowned multidisciplinary designer Mathieu Lehanneur, who happens to be from the region, to design the space. Seventy percent of the artisans will be featured at the opening are from Normandy.
The Maison is a bit experimental as it’s the first time the company has worked with local artisans. “It’s a really exciting opportunity for us to be in a place where we’re bringing something special to the market that will help us draw a different type of customer,” she said. The company also plans to work with local schools to create partnerships and programs to support young designers.
The focus on local flair aims to set it apart from La Vallée Village, Value Retail’s designer outlet 40 minutes outside of Paris to the east. That center boasts Balmain, Balenciaga, Loewe, Prada and Saint Laurent among its stores, and is easily accessible by commuter train.
There’s room for both, said McCabe. “With the number of tourists that are coming through and the 13 to 14 million residents relative to Paris, it certainly is a large enough market to support multiple quality centers,” she said.
Aside from tourists, McArthurGlen hopes to attract the Normandy region’s wealthier residents. “In the west of Paris ultimately the levels of disposable income are higher than the east — 20 to 25 percent,” she said.
“What we’ve actually found as we’ve entered into this post-COVID[-19] world is that we’ve been able to focus on the local catchments and that’s going to continue to pay dividends for us.”