We asked GÉRARD SOLAS, CEO of SODEC marketing and management, 4 questions :
Q. The concept for Allées Shopping is completely innovative. Can you describe it to us?
G. SOLAS: Indeed, the design was not easy and it took several months of consideration. The site is highly accessible and only ten minutes away from Bayonne, South Landes and the coast. It is also located in an exceptional natural environment. So we started with the premise that for consumers, it is often quite a bind to get to a shopping centre so we needed to make it a ‘pleasure’ to travel there. We eliminated all sources of stress and irritation by creating an exceptionally pleasant space where alleys criss-cross the centre and light floods into big open squares.
Q. Do you think that the concept of Allées Shopping will win over the kind of consumer that has become ‘allergic’ to shopping centres?
G.S.: That is the goal. As well as its exceptional accessibility, we have created a natural ‘lodge’ type of architecture using wood, glass and natural finishes. As they arrive on site, customers will see a ground-level car park with 3000 spaces, natural lighting and a view of the surrounding natural area; the car park is also equipped with an auto-guidance system to signal empty spaces. Once they have parked, they will discover the centre’s glass-panelled and well-lit access areas. From there they can enter the main shopping centre where the stores are located. There are eight access points with travellators and escalators to guarantee immediate access from anywhere in the car park. That’s right; the Saturday scramble is a thing of the past! The commercial offer is completed by a wide range of services: a crèche, a coat and locker room, a baby lounge, a relaxing lounge, a connected lounge with wifi…everything has been designed so that visitors can concentrate entirely on the pleasure of shopping.
Q. What are the benefits of this new concept for retailers?
G.S.: The customers’ smiles. When they can get there quickly, park easily and find what they’re looking for quickly then customers are relaxed and in a better frame of mind to shop. The financial stakes are high for Les Allées Shopping. Auchan is aiming to achieve 125 million euros; it will be the largest hypermarket in the region. The concept of providing a diverse commercial offer all under one roof is new. Two main alleys will lead to the new Auchan hypermarket. A circular path -upon which most of the stores can be found i.e. fashion and clothing etc.- will connect with these two alleys. In the middle, there will be an open square, a meeting point and a space for events and entertainment; fashion shows, conferences etc. There will also be a giant screen displaying any major sports events. Another main avenue will house leisure activities, which are usually located outside of shopping centres, as well as kitchen and home supplies and interior design stores. One important detail: the optimisation of space and facilities means that the rent and other costs for retailers are the same as in any traditional retail park.
Q. The dining area is one of the Allées Shopping’s star features. What makes it so innovative?
G.S.: Consumer behaviour has changed. Today, stopping to have a drink or a bite to eat is an integral part of the shopping experience. That is why we have devoted a vast space to our food court and paid particular attention to its decoration. Imagine a dozen or so restaurants set up over a 3000 sq. m court yard, from fast food to traditional Basque-Landes cuisine. Light floods in through a huge bay window that is 30 metres wide and 10 metres high and it opens out onto 80 linear metres of exterior terraces. Wherever you sit, you have an amazing view of the (often snow-topped) peaks of the Pyrenees.