Wednesday, 1 March 2017

MSc Real Estate: Bicester Village 2017

On Wednesday 8 February (2017) the MSc Real Estate students went on the annual field trip to the international shopping destination that is Bicester Village. Bicester Village is one of a number of Chic Outlet Shopping® Villages that are operated and owned by Value Retail. There are now nine 'villages' in Europe and two in China and each is defined by its luxury brands and open-air ‘village’ setting.

The purpose of trip is to highlight the link between business, marketing, branding and real estate. There were presentations from the original developer (Chris Harris, Director of Value Retail) and the current marketing team (Miranda Markham, Community Relations Director for Value Retail). The students go there every year (read about the 2016 visit here) what's new for 2017? Click on the red links for more information.

Presentation from Chris Harris (left) and Miranda Markham (photo by Ragini Venu)

Phase 4 of the development has now been approved (in September 2016) and will include a further expansion of the development, the relocation of the existing Tesco store and traffic management plans. Bicester Village remains a major tourist destination in the UK (for certain groups of tourists) and the development of the Bicester Village rail station reflects this - offering a direct route from central London as well as luxury surroundings, although the naming of the new station was not without controversy.

In 2016, I remember Miranda Markham talked about the marketing strategies for Bicester Village and the customer (or guest) statistics behind it. She explained the importance of social media and how it was being used to promote Bicester Village...I did a little investigation to see what their social media presence is like. Here's what I found (you can draw your own conclusions):

Instagram - 45.1k followers, average 1 or 2 posts a day (mainly product/event images)
Facebook - 196k likes (followers), average 1 or 2 posts a day (often shared with other channels, but including videos)
Twitter - 34.1k followers, average 4 posts a day, highlighting events and offers
Pinterest - interestingly only 199 followers...could this be a recent venture, or just not such a good social media platform for Bicester Village?
YouTube - about 100-500 views per video, mainly designer interviews/events
Weibo - (the Chinese microblogging site which is similar to Twitter) has 42k followers

And what about Bicester itself? Well, a few years ago it was designated the location of the UK's first eco town (development already underway) and more recently, it was chosen as a new garden city with a plan to build 13,000 new homes on the edge of the town. Not everybody was pleased about this.

Walking into Bicester Village (photo by Ragini Venu)

Following the formal sessions, the students walked from the John Paul II Centre through Bicester town centre and entered Bicester Village through the new railway station. They had time to indulge in some serious retail therapy and experience the development from a consumers' point of view. Although Nick French rather hoped that, as budding property experts, they were thinking about tenant mix, pedestrian flows, demographics and the efficient use of space as they enjoyed their shopping experience. And finally, each year the students enjoy a wonderful breakfast :)

Breakfast - by Ragini Venu

More information on the MSc Real Estate here.

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