Expat Essentials

Roermond: An alternative to city living, with shopping, luxury on the water

When we first visited Roermond back in October 2016, it was an attractive, small Dutch city with a luxury outlet center tacked on to the side. But we could see the potential … it already was an incredibly popular destination, packed with shoppers from all over Europe who were coming to buy and to buy big.

And we also noticed Roermond has a location that works for it on multiple levels, including proximity to outdoor adventure and big-city life.

But we never expected this. We just returned to Roermond after a year to find it’s one of the Netherlands’ boom towns. Cranes and construction equipment dominate, with new luxury apartments and a huge addition to Designer Outlet Roermond either planned or finished.

Yes, we’re entering the holiday season, and we know from our analytics that expats like to shop, with our posts on Europe’s luxury outlet centers racking up about 500,000 page views since 2016.

Judging by the crowds at this mega-shopping center on a perfect sunny September Saturday, we predict 2019 is going to be a record Christmas for some retailers. So you might want to get out early, because the people we know who work or have worked at Designer Outlet Roermond say there is never a slow day.

But the real reason we’re telling you about Roermond is that it’s more than a shopping destination – it’s an option for expats having a difficult time finding a place to live in increasingly expensive Eindhoven, which is about 40 minutes north by car.

This is also an option for highly skilled internationals working at the giant Chemalot facility outside Maastricht, or in Maastricht itself, which is 40 minutes south. Duisberg, Aachen and Venlo are all fairly close, so if you wanted to live in luxury in a quiet town then work in those industrial centers, this the ticket. And it’s a pricey ticket. (See below.)

In just three years, we’ve seen the city go from kind of a Nothingville to this booming mini-metropolis with aspirations of becoming a little New York City, and part of it has to do with its location on the Maasplassen Recreational Area.

The Massplassen is a series of lakes created along the Maas River, which flows from France to the North Sea near Rotterdam. This is a center for boating (especially sailing), with marinas up and down the largest continuous water sport area in the Netherlands. This also a great destination for hiking and biking.

So part of the appeal is that you’re in the middle of one of the country’s premier playgrounds.

Designer Outlet Roermond

THE MANHATTAN LUXURY APARTMENT BUILDING RISES ON THE EDGE OF FASHION OUTLET ROERMOND. AND YES, THAT’S A DUNKIN’ DONUTS

First, let’s talk about the expansion of the center because it really works.

Our mission was to get fall and winter clothes for our daughter Lale, who attends Maastricht University just south of Roermond. She bought bupkis, but that’s another story. The trip was a chance to see what the 100 million or so euros London-based owner McArthurGlen has sunk into the expansion looks like.

“Game changer” doesn’t begin to describe it.

The most noticeable change is the center on the north side of Roermond now has a huge new parking garage, with 6,500 spaces, in addition to its surface parking.

This is a big deal because in the past, we’ve parked on the other end of the city and walked in because there were no spaces in the parking areas. That’s just the beginning.

There’s an entire new multi-story wing that includes:

• a Wagamama, part of the London-based chained of Asian/fusion restaurants. This upscale restaurant is something of a outlier at a fashion outlet center, where most of the offerings are one-offs or fast-casual stores like Hilversum-based La Place. (And there’s a biiig La Place in the new section, replacing a smaller store at the front of the center, as well as a Burger Federation from side-of-the-autobahn restaurant developer Autogrill.) Oh, and there’s a stand-alone Dunkin’ Donuts that glows in the shadow of residential tower under construction.)

• big new stores including a swanky Ted Baker outlet from the London-based publicly traded chain of luxury apparel. And again, this store is a big departure from tenant finish we’re used to seeing anywhere but at super-high-end shopping centers.

The interior has wood arches running along a center spine attached to the 10-meter-high ceiling and lots of dramatic lighting.

The original sections of Designer Outlet Roermond were kind of ticky-tack … attractive enough, and certainly more upscale than the dismal outlet malls in the United States. But it’s clear McArthurGlen put cost over style in the beginning. Now that the developer is pumping money, it seems the sky is the limit.

The new section is completely different, with marble and tile in no-expense-spared tenant finishes. Because this is a crazy profitable business. The total number of fashion outlets in Europe is about 180 from Portugal to Poland, with 3.4 million meters2 of leasable space (selling floors) generating about 14 billion euros in top-line revenue, according to industry trade data.

One of the biggest advantages the outlet centers has is unlike conventional retailers, they’re allowed to stay open late every night and – most importantly – open on Sundays in countries such as Germany, which still have Sunday Blue Laws.

Everything we’ve read in the trades states that McArthurGlen is the dominant developer and Roermond is likely their most profitable fashion outlet. We know from friends who work, or have worked, there that Roermond draws customers from the Netherlands, Belgium and far into Germany as well as tourists from Turkey, the Middle East and Asia. Employees at the various stores are required to be fluent in English and German as well as Dutch.

So look for more expansions as long as there’s contiguous land available.

Here’s our original post, which has more about what shoppers can expect at Burberry, Montcler, Victorinox, Levi’s, and multiple Ralph Lauren stores including a small, new final-discount space and the rest.

Luxury living

Now, let’s talk about quality of life.

For whatever reason, there are all kinds of high-end apartments going up. And as we’ve pointed out before, considering this is the middle of the conservative Limburg province, the marketing is kind of crazy.

On schedule (as far as we can tell) to be finished in November, the 15-floor Manhattan high-rise offers 39 apartments and a penthouse, with units named after Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Brubeck and Louie Armstrong, who, we’re thinking, didn’t spend all that much time in Roermond.

Manhattan is part of Jazz City, which includes the New Orleans apartments are already in place.

Jazz City prices start at 419,000 euros for the small unit – 118m2, or about 1,400 square feet – and go to 855,000 euros for the 200m2, or 2,200 square feet, units.

If you want to live on the water, Roerdelta is a two-phase development on the edge of a marina. So you can bring your boat.

There are at least a dozen other projects – both new and conversions – as the pressure builds on the housing markets across the Netherlands. We’re planning a quick return to Roermond to talk with local officials about future plans and trends driving the boom. Stay tuned …..

See more about Roermond and other luxury apparel outlets here.

You can see all of our posts about fashion outlets across Europe here.

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