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Banking on factory outlets Factory outlets, it seems, are finally here to stay. London based outlet centres operator Freeport Retail, which has a presence in Malacca, says Malaysia presents a good opportunity with its vibrant retail market. JOY LEE reports. OUTLET centres are a fairly new segment to the local shopping scene, but they are quickly stirring the interest of consumers and retailers alike. After all, shopping is said to be one of Malaysians favourite pastimes. The first factory nike elite shorts outlet in Malaysia was Oriental Village in Langkawi, which opened more than 10 years ago. But perhaps built ahead of its time, it did not gain traction and eventually closed down. The opening of Johor Premium Outlets (JPO) in 2011 heralded the second coming of outlet centres in Malaysia, and they look set for a permanent stay this time around. The other two such centres currently in the market are Mitsui Outlet Park KLIA Sepang and Freeport A Outlet in Malacca. and more brands are entering the outlet market. They are finding that they need to engage their customers through multiple channels, and this is a channel where they can draw in a new set of customers, says Chris Milliken, commercial director of outlet centres operator Freeport Retail Plc. With some 300 to 320 outlet centres in the world, this shopping segment is certainly proving to be a big business, adds Milliken. Currently, there are about 15 or so larger outlet operators worldwide. London based Freeport Retail has experience nike running shoes for women in developing, owning and operating more than 15 centres across the world since 1994. Outlet centres are built for the purpose of selling excess or past seasons goods at discounted prices. These centres are designed to ensure consumers are still able to enjoy the full brand experience despite paying discounted prices while allowing retailers to sell their goods without sacrificing their image. Milliken opines that Malaysia presents a good opportunity for outlet operators, given its vibrant retail market. According to reports, JPO pulls in a steady footfall of four million visitors per year. Freeport Retail currently operates Freeport A Outlet, which was developed by Langkah Realiti. The outlet opened its doors last November and is on track to attract 2.5 million visitors in its first year of operation. Milliken expects footfall to grow by 10% annually. is a good location for us. Malacca attracts about 30 million visitors a year. And Freeport A Outlet is located near the A Golf Resort, he says. The 180,000sq ft Freeport A Outlet centre is 100% leased and boasts 70 plus tenants including Nike, Cotton On, Esprit, Levi Triumph, Puma, G2000, Samsonite, Saccor, Geox, Folli Follie, US Polo Association and Forever 21. Phase two for the outlet centre is underway and is expected to be ready by early 2018. The new phase, which measures some 40,000 45,000sq ft, would add another 40 units of retail stores and more carpark bays, as well as more leisure elements such as an event hall, kids play area and food and beverage areas. However, Milliken cautions that there are dangers of an oversupply of outlet centres in Malaysia, what with a few already in the pipeline and a few more nike b roy shoes being planned by developers. This include the Kuala Lumpur International Outlets (KLIO), Genting Premium Outlets (GPO) and Design Village Penang in Batu Kawan. An important factor in ensuring the success of an outlet, says Milliken, is to please the customers. Freeport A for example, has a mix of tenants that caters to its surrounding market. While most outlet centres focus on the premium segment, Freeport A is concentrating on the mid market. don want to do the same thing as everyone else, he declares. about pleasing the market. And we are in a segment that caters to our customers and they are happy with it, he says, adding that conversion rates from footfall to actual sales have been very satisfactory. Freeport Retail has also put in a lot of attention to creating an ambiance that would encourage families to enjoy a day out while looking for bargains. should be about a nice and fun environment. It should be different from a full price shopping environment. Otherwise, they might as well just drive to the nearest mall, he points out. The architecture of the centre is themed on Malacca Dutch heritage and offers a series of open air plazas and features a windmill, fountains, gardens and a carousel. There are also regular events held at Freeport A Outlet to keep visitors entertained. According to Milliken, Freeport Retail will not be looking at any more outlet centres in Malaysia to avoid moving into what could potentially be a saturated market. But the outlets operator is training its sights on the Asean region. Apart from Freeport A Outlet, the outlets operator has another project in Manila, Philippines, which is expected to open its doors in the second quarter of 2017. Indonesia is an interesting market, remarks Milliken, and Vietnam and Cambodia could be ripe for outlet shopping in three to four years time. Milliken believes Freeport Retail has the right strategy to be an established player in the Asean region given its experience in the industry. are looking at markets with enough international brand exposure. And we work very closely with our local partners to make sure we get things right, right from the beginning, he says.