The broader UK high street may be flat on its back but the Brit’s appetite for the "designer outlet" appears to be as keen as ever. Expenditure on affordable luxury items, especially when available at a discount, has hardly been dented by the effects of the recession.
The Times has reported this morning that Land Securities, the UK’s most powerful property company, has signed an outline agreement to open a designer outlet centre with in the O2 Arena complex in Greenwich. The O2 still contains acres of unused space including the area which was reserved on an upper level for the ill-fated super-casino that never came to pass.
Planning permission has been granted for around 230,000 square feet of retail space which could contain up to a whopping 110 shops plus bars and restaurants.
Bicester in Oxford is the unlikely setting for the outlet village that everyone wishes to emulate. It has been a runaway success ever since its owner Value Retail opened it in 1995. (The company runs nine villages in Europe and has more planned for China.)
Packed coaches run daily to Bicester from London and sales of discounted Anya Hindmarch, Vuitton, Burberry and Dior are said to generate an average of £2,000 sales per square foot.
Despite now being the country’s premiere live music venue attracting more than seven million visitors annually, daytime footfall within the O2 isn’t great. This is despite the availability of the Emirates airline cable car – normally nearly empty – and the attraction of the "Sky walk" which means you can now actually trot over the roof of the Richard Rogers tent if you wish.
The Times also quoted Alistair Wood, the senior vice-president of real estate and development for AEG, the O2’s owner, who said: "We are strongly of the view that a well-executed and positioned designer outlet village could drive the huge success enjoyed to date at the O2. We welcome Land Securities as our potential partner, who we believe to be an ideal match in terms of track record and skill set."
A coach or the cable car may prove the best way of laying your hands on that discounted Anya Hindmarch handbag. For those who drive and park in one of the 2,000 spaces a fee of up to £25 is currently charged to attend evening concerts.