Build it, but will they come?

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Build it, but will they come?

To look back on the last ten years of Retail Week Awards is to look back on the very best centres that hit the headlines for all the right reasons. All demanded the unprecedented vision and conviction of a few – each believing in a new generation of regional or city centre mall that would radically change the way you and I shopped.

There was an evolution in terms of what ingredients made for a successful end product – including a trio of anchor stores, impressive parking capacities, iconic architecture and headline rents, through to brand experience, superlative customer service, the freshest fascias, environmental credentials and not forgetting a well-planned commercialisation package. The one thing all parties do agree on is that it is not enough to simply build a scheme and wait for retailers to sign and then let customers flood in through the front doors.

Ten years on, and the role of collaboration between investors, local authorities, landlords, and retailers is stronger than ever – many of whom will be at the BCSC conference in Manchester next week, and at MAPIC in a fortnight.  Indeed, the one common denominator across the board has been strong relationships through good communication. Looking at these past winners you’ll immediately recognise that grasping the vision for a major new scheme – often over 6/7 years before construction could even begin – was fundamental to each and every one of their successes. In a crowded market where the customer infrequently knows what they really want, and future trends are usually the preserve of the retailer and analyst, we should pay tribute to the foresight of those with the power to support such significant developments.

Looking forward, consumer habits and their fluctuating spending power continues to shape the brands and shopping places we create. We should expect to see the continued rise in importance of customer service and what constitutes value for money, as well as the changing role shopping centres play in the community with the introduction of non-retail uses. Despite the internet, and some say the supermarkets, hacking away a share of over-the-counter sales, the property sector is on the whole doing its bit with new and fresh initiatives to make their schemes more relevant – providing a platform for retailers to trade better, and making shopping trips more enjoyable for the customer as a result. Welcome to the next generation of retail.

Dan Innes. Managing Director

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