With a little more than a decade to live, the well-known outlet del Vallès receives more than 4.4 million visitors a year.
To talk about La Roca Village is to make it a clearly successful model. Just over two decades after its opening (1998), the spectacular annual increase in visitors has led Value Retail, the investment company behind this business model, to invest 50 million euros in remodelling and extending, for the second time in this period, this top-of-the-range outlet, which sells clothes from other seasons of exclusive brands and which is located in La Roca del Vallès.
With this millionaire investment they seek, they say, to improve the shopping experience of their customers. What seems clear is that Value Retail, which has more than a dozen outlets in Europe and China – two in Spain – has found the secret to its success. Why does La Roca Village triumph?
60% of visitors, tourists
La Roca Village closed 2017 with more than 4.4 million visitors. This is practically double the number of visitors to the centre in 2007 (2.6 million) and 16 times more than in the first year of opening (270,000).
In terms of workers, in 2007, almost ten years after its opening, the outlet employed more than 760 people. Two decades after opening its doors, La Roca Village employs 1,800 people.
Located on the outskirts of Barcelona, in the Vallès Oriental region, what is perhaps more surprising is that, taking into account the distance between the outlet and the centre of Barcelona or the airport, some 40 kilometres, 60% of visitors are tourists.
For the mayor of La Roca del Vallès, Carles Fernández, the secret of La Roca Village’s success is due to three key aspects. “Its location is very good: it is right at the exit of the AP7, the main road to Catalonia, with a link to the C-60, a road to the main tourist spots on the coast; they work with tour operators at source; and they also have a great policy of international marketing and diffusion”.
Shopping tourism is in vogue. If before this type of tourism was associated with cities like New York or Paris, now Barcelona is also a reference. Companies are aware of this and are investing more and more in attracting international visitors. It is possible to book a visit to La Roca Village from anywhere in the world if you are planning a visit to Barcelona or its surroundings. On the outlet’s own website it is possible to buy a pass for a day’s shopping at La Roca Village. Thus, for example, one of the packages offers, for 64 euros, a coach service for the round trip from the centre of Barcelona, a 10% discount on any of the purchases made, a gift card of 25 euros to spend there and food in one of its restaurants.
The outlet also offers other services, mainly aimed at tourists, such as chauffeur, taxi, personal stylist … All this seasoned with tourist information of Catalonia. In the portal it is possible to buy a package that offers a day of shopping in La Roca Village (transfers included) with a visit to Gaudí’s Crypt.
“A mix of great brands at attractive prices”
With more than 140 luxury brands, for Javier Cottet, vice president of Barcelona Oberta, a union of tourist commercial axes, the secret of La Roca Village’s success is due to “an excellent mix of good commercial brands at attractive prices; an impeccable shopping centre design, with good accessibility, very well cared for, very clean, and with a very good product”.
The manager also highlights “the continued promotion of the centre”. “They go looking for clients, they are very active and they are always promoting activities to attract the public”, he stresses.
Change in trade dynamics
However, the installation of this business model has collateral victims. The main one is local commerce. “It has been widely proven that the dynamics of trade evidently undergo a drastic change when a large commercial area is installed and operated. The impact on local commerce and the proximity of municipalities is clearly affected when a commercial operator sets up a large establishment outside the consolidated urban fabric,” explain PIMEC (Micro, small and medium enterprises in Catalonia). “In fact, the effect produced is inversely proportional. That is to say, the more large surfaces they open, the more small shops they close, since, by placing outlets or large commercial stores outside urban centres, consumers move with vehicles, and do not pass through the streets of their localities, thus reducing consumption in local shops”.
Javier Cottet, from Barcelona Oberta, believes that the opening of such a centre “can only have a positive impact on the environment if there is a comprehensive strategy between the outlet, the municipalities and their local commerce. If not, it is practically impossible”.
In this strategic line and with the aim of taking advantage of the flow of consumers who come to the Vallès outlet, PIMEComerç established an agreement with Roca Village “to organise a collaboration table with the aim of bringing together the attractions of the neighbouring municipalities (gastronomy, culture, local commerce, crafts, tourism, etc.) through the information point of the shopping centre. In this way, at least, we try to disseminate the concentration of tourism to other nearby localities and contribute to the strengthening of the present commercial fabric”.
The work aimed at strengthening the coexistence between these two types of trade and tourism seems to have borne fruit. “In recent years, the number of restaurants has increased and vacation apartments have proliferated to cover the supply of accommodation in the area. The municipality is beginning to see real options for economic development around tourism,” explains the mayor of La Roca del Vallès.
“Although it is true that the installation of La Roca Village has not massively affected local commerce, it is beginning to notice an influx of visitors seeking traditional products in the center of our municipality. There is still a lot of work to be done. But for us it is a challenge to take advantage of the massive visit of tourists and that is why we have recently launched a website for tourism in the municipality that collects the offer of the village. www.larocaturisme.cat
Commitment to the municipality in which they are installed
“The triumph of shopping malls, outlets or not, ends up reconfiguring the entire area and its surroundings, and even force to change the urbanism and mobility of the city,” says Cottet. But that does not have to be negative.
Of the 1,800 people who use this large outlet, 60% are from Vallés Oriental. To find new workers, La Roca Village uses the local occupation service of the municipality in which it is located.
Perhaps one of the great secrets of Roca Village’s success lies in rowing in the same direction as its surroundings, in weaving common strategies and having all the parties involved in favour. “We value positively the installation of this center in our municipality,” says, emphatically, Carles Fernandez. “4,400,000 visitors are 4.4 million opportunities to raise awareness of the singularities of the Roca del Vallés.
Autor: Alba Marchador Vázquez, Cronica Global