intu is responsible for some of the largest shopping centres in the UK. Here Colin talks about his role as regional managing director at intu, his work with St David's in Cardiff and how the role of the shopping centre has evolved.
RF. How did you become regional managing director at intu?
CF. I took a degree in estate management, not really knowing too much about it until I started work with British Rail Property Board on its station retail portfolio. I then worked for several retailers (sadly, none of whom exist anymore!) during which time I served on the management committee of the Property Managers Association. I have also spent a lot of my career in private practice, but all of my 25 years as a chartered surveyor have been in retail and leisure. I joined intu in 2013 as an asset manager at intu Trafford Centre and was appointed to my current role as regional managing director for the west in February 2016.
RF. What does your role involve?
CF. As regional managing director, I am responsible for five centres down the west side of the UK. These are intu Trafford Centre and intu Potteries, and our joint ventures with M&G at Manchester Arndale and Cribbs Causeway, and with Landsec at St David’s, Cardiff.
I work with our asset management teams to ensure the assets perform well and to drive through our leasing strategies and investment plans. We are always looking to improve and grow our centres and ensure that our customers (visitors and tenants alike) have the best possible experience. For me, St David’s is particularly exciting as this gives intu a chance to work in collaboration with another major property owner on one of the largest retail destinations in the south west.
RF. Who is the St David’s customer?
CF. I would say due to the breadth of retailers and leading brands at St David’s our retail offer has a pretty wide appeal. Our core shoppers range in age, from families attracted by the all day out experiential offer including Treetop Adventure Golf, to the large student population for whom we also host ever-popular student nights. Being home to a number of international brands such as Victoria’s Secret, H&M and Michael Kors also adds to our fashion credentials and regional draw, and interestingly 47 per cent of our shoppers are male.
RF. How do you feel the role of the shopping centre has changed in recent years?
CF. I think there have been a lot of changes in recent years. In 2017, a trip to a shopping centre offers so much more than just a spot of retail therapy. Shopping centres today are fully comprehensive retail and leisure destinations, and places for people not only to shop but also to eat, drink and be entertained. Another key development has been the focus on increasing the variety of food and drink operators available for consumers, in large part driven by shopper demand for new and authentic experiences. Shopping centres have developed and broadened their appeal making for a much more exciting customer experience, in my opinion.
RF. Tell us about the new retailers you have welcomed recently and what they bring to centre.
CF. Recent additions to St David’s include Bravissimo, Victoria’s Secret, Seasalt and restaurant brand Byron, set to open later this year. The latter will sit brilliantly alongside the casual dining on Tredegar Street and The Hayes, whilst also benefitting from proximity to the main events venue in Cardiff. This new signing highlights our ability to attract well known restaurant names looking to secure their flagship sites outside of London, joining Wahaca and Jamie’s Italian. Bravissimo’s new flagship and Victoria’s Secret are fantastic additions to the strong and diverse retail line-up at St David’s. This new opening firmly cements the centre’s position as one of the leading regional retail and leisure destinations in the UK.
RF. Do you host many events and pop-ups to offer variety to visitors?
CF. We have a hugely successful programme of pop-ups and commercialisation activity at the centre. The most recent of these was We Loves the ‘Diff. The St David’s marketing team worked closely with local cult start-up brand I Loves the ‘Diff to create five Cardiff-centric art prints. Customers could buy exclusive artwork for a minimum £3 donation, with each design representing what customers love about Cardiff as a city. All the money raised went directly to Huggard Centre, Llamau and The Wallich, to support the amazing work these charities do for the homeless and community in Cardiff, making a huge difference to so many lives. Customers love local initiatives, and at St David’s art has proved to be a fantastic medium for engaging shoppers, offering a real point of difference. In just over a month, all prints had sold out and raised more than £30,000 for the three charities, surpassing the original target by 50% per cent. Recently we have also worked with numerous brands for successful pop-ups within the scheme, including Mercedes Benz, Highgrove and Ribble Cycles.
RF. Do you have any plans to extend or refurbish the centre?
CF. We’ve been working closely with retailers to ensure the centre’s offer is up to date and appealing to shoppers. Following the brands’ success within St David’s, YO! Sushi and TGI Friday’s recently refurbished their restaurants to enhance the dining experience for customers. The YO! Sushi refurbishment embraces modern technology such as USB chargers at every table and new LED screens showing branded content, whilst TGI Friday’s has created a more comfortable and luxurious space within the existing restaurant. Fashion brand Superdry is also refreshing its store with a major refurbishment.
RF. What’s next for St David’s?
CF. In terms of leasing for St David’s, we are in discussions with a number of exciting retail and leisure brands, so watch this space! On a local level we have been delighted with the response to the We Loves the’ Diff campaign and would certainly consider similar future initiatives to engage the local community and raise donations for worthy causes.