The fashion house’s second shopping center in Bucharest, Pallady, is being developed in two phases. The first phase will open with 8,700 mÂ² this summer and the remaining 4,000 mÂ² will follow at a later date. Located near the A2 motorway, the second shopping center in the Romanian capital has direct access from the motorway in a key location attracting a catchment area of ââover three million people. BR spoke to Cornelia Nicolae, Director of Retail Operations at Fashion House Group, Romania, about the Pallady Center and the company’s plans for it, the investment, the pandemic effect, as well as consumers, target and trends in fashion retail.
By Romanita Oprea
How would you define the role Romania plays and its importance in Fashion House Group’s development strategy?
Romania plays an important role in Fashion House Group’s commitment to further develop its activities in Central and Eastern Europe. The Group entered the Romanian market over 12 years ago, setting a new standard in the local fashion market. With the opening of the Fashion House Outlet Center Militari in 2008, the Group not only launched its first outlet business in Romania, but also the concept of locating outlet centers in the largest shopping parks in the country. country, which turned out to be a huge success.
After over 12 years of continued success and a loyal customer base who understand and appreciate the brand and the value offering now associated with the brand, we are about to open our second outlet in Bucharest – Fashion House Pallady. This new major investment of 25 million euros to develop an Outlet in the eastern part of the capital further reinforces the strategic importance of Romania in the Group’s growth plans. Fashion house Pallady will open on May 27 and host many top international brands, offering attractive discounts throughout the year.
What was the impact of the pandemic on your projects in the local market and how did you adapt?
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges for the company. Throughout this period of uncertainty, we have had to adapt quickly to ever-changing environments, ensuring that our tenants are continuously supported and that our clients are safe and healthy during any visit to our point of sale. After the lockdown, we reopened Fashion House Outlet Center Militari with many new initiatives and amenities in the center, an increased hygiene regime, and sufficient signage and assistance to help consumers stay safe while shopping. We continue to work in partnership with our tenants, and in close collaboration with local authorities, to ensure a continuous and secure shopping experience for our customers and all staff.
Despite the difficult context, we were able to continue construction of the Pallady center when authorized, which allowed us to officially open our new center on May 27, 2021.
Even in this context, how would you characterize 2020?
Despite the economic uncertainties of 2020, Fashion House Group had a good year in Romania. Our brand and value offering has continued to interest consumers, especially with financial uncertainties, they know that when they buy from us they will always have access to great discounts on high quality brands. Our performance throughout this difficult year has demonstrated the strength and flexibility of our business model, proving that it is the winning formula for the outlet sector.
More than ever, people are more comfortable shopping at out-of-town shopping destinations that have free parking and ample space for safe social distancing. This trend has resulted in success for Fashion House Outlet Center Militari. Overall annual attendance has exceeded our initial estimates and there has been a significant increase in average spend per capita, with customers receiving numerous promotions of up to 90%.
As the world begins to move back to a ‘new normal’ we are now seeing even greater interest in the point of sale model. We continue to welcome more and more tenants as partners seeking to optimize their business by eliminating excess inventory and generating cash flow to invest more in new season inventory, trusting our experienced team to provide results for them.
What are your goals and major projects for 2021?
The outlet fashion market is going through a promising period, with consumers gradually resuming their pre-pandemic activities, seeking to renew their wardrobes. We anticipate a significant increase in consumer spending in the second half of 2021, and brand and value will be the primary drivers of purchases. We are confident that this will bode well for our shopping centers.
We are currently focusing on the next growth phase of Fashion House Group in Romania. The investment of 25 million euros is our true reflection of our mission to innovate the future of the shopping experience. Covering more than 12,000 m2, the project is being developed in two phases and will host more than 60 stores – offering customers top quality international brands with discounts of up to 70%, all year round – a children’s play area , restaurants and over 300 free parking spaces for visitors.
The strategic location, the high level of service, the quality of the tenants’ composition and the picturesque architecture with open-air galleries – a new concept in the country – are obvious assets thanks to which the fashion house Pallady has established itself. will quickly establish itself as a commercially smart shopping destination. map of Bucharest and beyond.
It is encouraging to see that so many famous brands are ready to open up in this new business to provide another successful retail experience. The main sportswear brand Puma, along with other famous names such as Killtec, Tom Tailor, Lee Cooper, Triumph, Otter, Sizeer, Ecco, Colin’s, US Polo Assn and many more are currently completing their brand new stores. . We are honored by their trust in us and remain committed to providing the best quality service to all of them in the future.
How would you characterize your target?
We target consumers who value high-end, high-quality brands at affordable prices. Over the past few months, we’ve seen people put more emphasis on buying brands they trust. They stay true to their beloved brands, but are also more price-conscious. Following this trend, this year we have developed even more attractive discounts for top quality products through a wide selection of renowned national and international brands.
We will continue to expand the range of tenants, provide additional added value and create an exciting customer experience. With our two offers we are confident that we will be able to meet the needs of all Bucharest residents and its many visitors.
How important is the way the business communicates to you?
All brands need effective communication to be truly visible and trustworthy. We have always focused on clearly communicating the benefits of the point of sale model to both consumers and tenants. We value quality in everything we do. We offer consumers a wide range of high quality international brands with discounts of up to 70%, all year round, while our tenants find us a reliable partner to optimize their business success.
What do you want for the launch of your second point of sale in Bucharest?
We are convinced that our new development encompasses all the advantages to establish itself as a major shopping destination in the capital. At the exit of the A2 motorway, just 25 minutes from the city center, the Pallady fashion house serves a total catchment area of ââmore than three million Bucharest residents as well as those who use the A2 motorway, the main access route to the Black Sea.
Another strength is the unique design with open-air galleries, which in today’s climate is more comfortable for customers. All stores have separate entrances in a landscape that reflects the ambience of Bucharest’s historic old town. Featuring classic Romanian architecture, the new point of sale offers an enchanting smart shopping experience.
Is it difficult to launch it during the pandemic?
Opening any new point of sale is not without challenges. However, we had a great team who worked incredibly hard to make Fashion House a success. Our main priority is to ensure a safe shopping environment for all of our customers and staff, taking all necessary measures to ensure everyone’s protection.
For Romanian consumers, the shopping experience now requires three elements: safety, quality products and great prices – and we meet these criteria with our two outlets.
How did your long experience at Stefanel help you in this new role?
Over 24 years have passed since I joined the fashion industry. Being a part of Stefanel has been an amazing journey, with a lot of hard work, but also a lot of opportunities and achievements. This vast experience instilled in me a mindset focused on the customer and the importance of product quality. I am convinced that my previous experience will allow me to inspire the local team and lead the company to new successes.
How is the shopping experience of Romanians different from that of other customers in Eastern Europe?
Compared to other markets, Romanians remain optimistic and this fills us with confidence in continued success. History has shown us that even in times of economic instability, point-of-sale activity remains on an upward trend as customers tend to save more without changing their consumption habits.
What do you think are the trends that fashion retailers need to pay attention to these days?
Many experts say the pandemic will continue to shape the industry for some time to come and will impact trends in the years to come. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the transition to a more digital world. With the lockdown and social distancing restrictions, many Romanians have migrated to online shopping, but have also discovered some weak spots in e-commerce such as clothes that don’t fit, returns that take longer to process and tedious customer service. We expect this trend to wane in popularity once restrictions on social distancing are relaxed. After a year spent largely indoors, a large majority of consumers miss the in-person experience, but they will be more selective in choosing shopping destinations. Retailers will need to make their in-store experiences even more engaging to attract new consumers and ensure they come back.