I spent my summer with Value Retail, a real estate company that specializes in building and managing premier shopping outlet villages in Europe. Scott Malkin, HBS class 1983, essentially brought the outlet village concept to Europe in the early 90’s, and today, the company has nine villages in strategic locations throughout Europe. I spent the summer based in La Vall‚e Village, approximately an hour outside of Paris.
I was keen to work with a smaller, entrepreneurial company, having worked at an investment bank before HBS, and also wanted to explore the real estate industry. With a staff of 300 people, Value Retail is more a hybrid real estate/retail company, as the majority of the company’s staff consists of retailers who previously worked for leading luxury and international volume brands. The company works closely with the brands to drive sales and has an incredibly successful model in terms of financial performance.
Needless to say, it was a bit of a culture shock in terms of size of the company and (French) culture at first, but my summer was perhaps amongst the most unique experiences I could have had. I was the first MBA candidate that the company hired for the summer, so they were extremely thoughtful in putting together a challenging project list. My program included working on the La Vall‚e Village expansion (from coordinating logistics to attending lawyers meetings in French!), leading a project team in the development of Business Continuity Planning (what is the company going to do if a dirty bomb goes off?), creating a formal leasing/commercialization strategy, and assisting with the opening of the new Kildare Village in Ireland (this entailed rolling up my sleeves and unpacking crates and hanging clothes so that stores could open in time), among other things.
I traveled to five of their villages in eight weeks and worked with every department. A much more rich experience I must say than my former modeling monkey work! Lastly, one of the more remarkable revelations is the direct application of my HBS education. I never thought it would happen so soon (or ever even), but I found myself applying TEM and MKT frameworks and even using Action Plan guidelines in my recommendations for the company. Who would have thought?