Europe’s factory outlet centre sector has a new player, with ambitions to grab a major slice of the lucrative Continental market.
Southeast of England-based residential developer, Comer Group, has stepped in to acquire Ram Euro Centers’ stalled attempt to develop an outlet centre at Verviers in Belgium.
Comer is also keen to acquire or develop other European outlet schemes, which it sees as a way of spreading its risk profile, having expanded into offices, industrial and retail over the past two years.
Construction work on the Ardennes Outlet Centre, which was held up by disagreement among the parties previously involved in the scheme, is now under way.
Comer Group chairman Luke Comer said: ‘Construction on site is progressing very swiftly. The first phase - more than 161,460 sq ft (15,000 sq m), contained in 50 stores, with 1,000 car spaces - will open at the end of November to catch the Christmas trade.’
Ex-Morrison Outlets executives Dominic Browne and Martin Winward have been drafted in by Comer Group to develop, lease and manage the Ardennes Outlet Centre, which is expected to have a EUR40 million (£26.7 million) end value. Browne, previously re-tained on the scheme by Ram Euro Centers, claims 35 per cent of the space at Ardennes Outlet is spoken for, with advanced negotiations under way for a further 20 per cent.
Brussels, Cologne, Dusseldorf and Bonn are within one-hour’s drive of the Ardennes Outlet centre, which will draw on a catchment area with more than 19 million of Europe’s richest residents, said Browne.
‘The Ardennes Outlet Centre is just the first step of its (Comer Group) expansion into the outlet sector. We are planning five outlet centres, maybe more if we can buy existing centres, over the course of the next five years,’ Browne said.
A multiplex cinema, theatre, concert hall, restaurants and other amenities have already opened alongside the Ardennes Outlet Centre.
Bureau Gerald in Brussels is Ardennes Outlet Centres local letting agent.