Corona crisis or not: a new clothing outlet is opening west of Amsterdam today. The location is a former sugar factory in Halfweg and has 115 shops. This makes it the fourth major clothing outlet in the Netherlands.
Before the crisis, The Style Outlets, as the location is called, was expected to attract two million visitors per year. Think of tourists, who could go on a bargain hunt directly from Schiphol. “Now that is a bit more difficult”, director Marcel Herben expects. “Despite the crisis, we have nevertheless let 75 percent of the stores.”
The shopping area belongs to the Spanish project developer Neinver, who operates these types of centers throughout Europe. According to Herben, they are also going well this year. “We see that outlets remain attractive to people. In Germany, after the first corona wave, we were soon back on the turnover of the previous year.”
As with more outlets in the Netherlands, retailers in the surrounding municipalities are less happy. They fear that they will get fewer customers, because they are exchanging the inner cities en masse for discounts and bargains. “Such a shopping center has a lot of consequences for the region, because every euro can only be spent once”, says Sonja Olthuis, center manager in Hoofddorp. “This will be particularly felt by 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 is already quite a lot of vacancy in Haarlem and the surrounding cities, a shopping area is being added again. People who buy something there are not buying from us. We are not happy about that.”
Van der Goen therefore joined a lawyer who tried to stop the arrival of the shopping center in Halfweg. Partly due to these types of procedures, it took more than ten years before the outlet could really open its doors. Previously there were also major protests against outlets in Zoetermeer and Assen; in the end they never came.
Herben understands the concerns of retailers for miles around, but thinks they should be especially happy with the arrival of his outlet. “As a result, you ultimately get more visitors: people who come to us, then see what they are going to do in the area. It is mainly fear of the unknown.”
According to Herben, turnover usually increases by about 20 percent in the vicinity of an outlet center. “So the whole economy will benefit.”
But is that really the case? Gert-Jan Slob of market researcher Locatus thinks the truth lies somewhere in the middle. “Take Lelystad. With all due respect, of course not much happens there. So if an outlet is established there, it will certainly have a positive effect on the economy. But of course this is not the case in the Amsterdam-Haarlem region.”
Pain is distributed
The pain that the new outlet center in Halfweg is causing other retailers, according to Slob, is spread over thirty to forty shopping areas in the region. “The retailers will of course notice that such an outlet has been created, but the effect will not be huge. We should not exaggerate it. People may go to the outlet in Halfweg twice a year, you don’t go every weekend.”
But, he adds: “We are of course in a difficult corona time. If you are already having such a hard time as a retailer, this can of course give it a final push.”