Corona crisis or not: Today a new clothing store is opening west of Amsterdam. The location is a former sugar factory in Halfweg and has 115 shops. This makes it the fourth large clothing store in the Netherlands.
Before the crisis, Style Outlets, as the location is called, should attract two million visitors a year. Think of tourists who could go on a bargain hunt right from Schiphol. “Now it’s a little more difficult,” expects director Marcel Herben. “Despite the crisis, we let 75 percent of the shops.”
The shopping district belongs to the Spanish project developer Neinver, who operates such centers across Europe. According to Herben, they are doing well again this year. “We see that branches remain attractive for people. In Germany, after the first corona wave, we were able to quickly achieve the sales of the previous year again.”
As with more branches in the Netherlands, retailers in the surrounding communities are less satisfied. They fear that they will get fewer customers because they swap the city centers en masse for discounts and bargains. “Such a shopping center has many consequences for the region, as each euro can only be spent once,” says Sonja Olthuis, Center Manager in Hoofddorp. “This will be particularly felt in our clothing and shoe stores.”
Marjolein van der Goen fears the same for her clothing stores in Haarlem, which is even closer to the outlet than Hoofddorp. “While there are already quite a few vacancies in Haarlem and the surrounding cities, a shopping area is being added again. People who buy something there do not buy from us. We are not satisfied with that.”
Van der Goen therefore joined a lawyer who tried to stop the arrival of the mall in Halfweg. Partly because of this type of procedure, it took the point of sale more than ten years to actually open its doors. Previously there were also major protests against sales outlets in Zoetermeer and Assen; In the end, they never came.
Herben fully understands retailers’ concerns, but believes they should be especially pleased with the arrival of their store. “As a result, you end up getting more visitors: people who come up to us and see what they’re going to do in the area. It’s mostly fear of the unknown.”
According to Herben, sales near an outlet center usually increase by around 20 percent. “So the whole economy will benefit from it.”
But is that really the case? Gert-Jan Slob from the market researcher Locatus believes that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. “Take Lelystad. With all due respect, not much is happening there. So if a point of sale is set up there, it will certainly have a positive effect on the economy. But of course this is not the case in the Amsterdam-Haarlem region.”
The pain is distributed
The pain that the new outlet center in Halfweg causes other retailers is spread across thirty to forty shopping districts in the region, according to Slob. “The retailers will of course notice that such an outlet has been created, but the effect will not be great. We shouldn’t overdo it. People go to the outlet in Halfweg maybe twice a year, they don’t go every weekend.”
But he adds: “We are of course in a difficult Corona time. If you as a retailer are already having such a difficult time, this can of course give you one last boost.”