Factory outlets market doubles in two years

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The Independent Online

The market for cut-price shopping in factory outlets has doubled in the UK in the past two years.

The market for cut-price shopping in factory outlets has doubled in the UK in the past two years.

According to a new study by Retail Intelligence, the factory outlet market was worth £1.2bn last year, equivalent to 0.6 per cent of total retail sales. This compares with only 0.3 per cent of sales in 1997.

The study claims the "Rip-off Britain" campaign has fuelled consumer interest in buying discounted goods. The increasing interest has led to a surge in the development of new centres, which are typically based in out-of-town locations.

There are 37 factory outlets in Britain with a further eight planned for this year. This compares with more than 300 in the United States.

However, Retail Intelligence says the UK market is reaching saturation point, with developers seeking new sites in continental Europe.

Factory outlets have a controversial history. When they first appeared some manufacturers of branded goods refused to supply to them for fear that the low prices would damage brand credibility. This has proved not to be the case and many top names now use the centres to off-load excess stock. Concerns linger that the centres will damage business in local high streets.

The main factory outlet operators in the UK include BAA McArthur Glen and the publicly quoted Freeport Leisure.

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