VIA Outlets – Europe’s fastest growing owner-operator of premium fashion outlet destinations – has partnered with leading testing and certification expert Bureau Veritas in the light of Covid-19 to create a ‘Safer Shopping’ certificate, which has now been granted to every centre in VIA Outlets’ 11-strong portfolio. This is the latest initiative in VIA Outlets’ ongoing work to ensure a safe shopping experience, and verifies that the many safety precautions the company has implemented since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak are truly setting a new standard for the entire industry.
Bureau Veritas, a renowned international leader in testing, inspection and certification services, created the ‘Safer Shopping’ certificate especially for VIA Outlets. At the start of the certification process, Bureau Veritas performed an audit of VIA Outlets’ offices and public spaces, followed by individual audits for each of the eleven centres. The robust criteria Bureau Veritas set up and that the centres have met include corporate-level and management knowledge about Covid-19 and its risks, various types of employee and guest protection including access to proper PPE and equipment, measures for physical distancing, enhanced cleaning of the centres as well as reinforced hygiene advice and sanitary facilities for guests. VIA Outlets will continue to monitor changing governmental guidelines and adapt accordingly to ensure a continued Safer Shopping environment.
Otto Ambagtsheer, chief executive officer, commented: “Having closely followed the advice of health authorities and governments throughout the coronavirus pandemic, working with a third party certification firm like Bureau Veritas to establish a standard for our health and safety practices felt like the natural next step. Our hope is that this certification will further reinforce the message to our guests that we have taken every step to ensure the safest possible shopping experience. The health and wellbeing of our guests, staff and brand partners is always our highest priority.”
Karolina Lachi-Kolarova, certification director for Bureau Veritas, added: “This is the latest demonstration of how our Restart Your Business solution is supporting organisations in navigating a safe return to work following the COVID-19 shutdowns. Working in partnership with the team from VIA Outlets, we have independently assessed the management procedures and effective implementation at site level, providing assurance to staff, customers and other stakeholders. With individual certificates of assurance for each site and full traceability thanks to our new online platform, VIA Outlets staff, customers and stakeholders can have increased confidence in the safety and compliance of its post COVID-19 operations.”
Having being instructed to close eight of its centres at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in March, VIA Outlets was able to reopen the majority of its centres starting at the end of April, with the final centre reopening mid-June. Ahead of reopening, VIA Outlets established its own Safer Shopping protocol in line with advice from local governments and health authorities, which included measures for social distancing, reinforced hygiene and sanitary advice for guests, sanitation stations throughout the centres and in stores, systems for crowd and queue management and increased frequency of cleaning the centres.
Following the reopening of its portfolio, VIA Outlets has demonstrated strong performance with reassuring figures across both brand sales and, in centres with no government-imposed visitor cap, footfall. Sales per visitor has been particularly high, with many centres outperforming the same period last year.