by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua
There’s a wedding in our house this year so Kildare Village has featured frequently over the past 6 months as a destination for my wife and daughters in their relentless pursuit of that elusive wedding look. I did, on occasion, perform the driving duties on these wild goose chases and consequently became familiar with the menu at Starbucks and Dunne & Crescenzi. I also wandered in and out of a few shops noticing very little other than the Disney-like ubiquity of cleaning personnel and the exceptional cleanliness of the place.
Alison and Marcelo
However, over the last number of months Kildare Village started to appear more and more on my work radar starting with the surprising appointment of Alison Johnson, a true MICE denizen, formerly of the Irish Tourist Board, to the MICE leadership team there. Then Value Retail, the global real estate firm that owns Kildare Village – along with 9 other villages across Europe (and now opening in China too) – appeared at IMEX Frankfurt showcasing its extensive infrastructure to MICE buyers seeking new venues, meetings spaces and incentive quality shopping experiences. The novelty of a “shopping experience” appearing at IMEX has already attracted media attention in our industry with MeetPie dedicating an entire editorial to the phenomenon. The editorial included some great sound bytes from Marcelo Molinari, Head of MICE at Value Retail but known to most of us from his previous role with the Costa del Sol Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Adding Colours to the Palette
All of this coincided nicely with our own visit to Kildare Village two days ago in fulfilment of a promise made to Alison at a previous industry event. Patrick and I were greatly impressed by what we encountered there and could clearly see that Kildare Village has the potential to add lots of additional colour and choice to the rich palette used by event professionals to paint their MICE-related programmes.
At their villages Value Retail set out to create extraordinary shopping experiences, manifestly different from what happens on the High Street of your average city or large town. The experience is extraordinary because place, product, price, promotion and people – the classic 5 Ps of marketing – are not random variables but fixed elements carefully controlled by the organization. Nothing is left to fate or chance and there’s an astonishing attention to detail. Does this not remind you of something? Is this not identical to the MICE approach, particularly the approach characteristic of the “I” in MICE – incentives or motivational experiences? Thus there’s a natural synergy between Value Retail and MICE.
The natural synergy is also evident in some of the infrastructural elements of the Villages. Each Village, for example, has a VIP salon that can be used for MICE group briefings, private catering, exclusive lounges, even business meetings. There’s also the opportunity to privatize the entire facility after closing time and turn the whole village into a theatre in which you enact your own MICE drama. Shopping can be available exclusively to closed MICE groups with local entertainment added. When we visited there was a unique exhibition of Irish Art, an innovative collaboration between Kildare Village and the Solomon Gallery featuring large sculptures and installations by Colm Brennan, Sandra Bell and others. If you’re a MICE professional seeking an interesting venue that might also double as a visitor attraction and provide great value upscale shopping then don’t wait until your daughter is getting married to visit your local Chic Retail Village.
Pádraic Gilligan is Managing Partner at SoolNua along with Patrick Delaney, his business partner of 20 years.