Bracknell Borough Council's Planning and Highways Committee has made a resolution to approve an outline planning application that will see the £750m regeneration of Bracknell town centre by the Bracknell Regeneration Partnership (BRP).

Plans for the future of Basildon town centre were unveiled last week at the town's eponymously named Basildon Centre. The move marks the beginning of a two-week public consultation at the Eastgate Centre and is aimed at highlighting a development framework for Basildon put together by external consultants.

The Moor Sheffield, a major regeneration project, will be one of the ODPM's Planning Delivery Scheme (PDA) pilots, according to an RREEF announcement.

The Brunswick, the mixed-use 1960s development at the heart of Bloomsbury, currently undergoing extensive remodelling and renovation, has signed Hobbs, Decadent Dorothy and Carluccio's as part of the roster of names for its £24 million retail development, due for completion this summer.

Shires West, Hammerson and Hermes' 654,840-sq ft extension to the Shires centre in Leicester, is now more than 50 per cent pre-let following Next's decision to take a 48,800-sq ft three-level flagship store. At the same time New Look has taken 23,244 sq ft and River Island 12,744 sq ft. Both will trade from two-level stores on the upper mall.

Retail is seen as the key to urban regeneration, but are local authorities treating it as a cash cow?

Princeshay, the 479,639-sq ft, Land Securities-owned, retail-led regeneration project in Exeter city centre, is 65 per cent pre-let or in solicitors hands.

The reaction of most people arriving in Hull by train is probably not good. Row upon row of boarded-up Victorian terraces await demolition and the journey from Doncaster is through a landscape of unremitting flatness.

There is something quite sad about the thought of a fridge, computer and television graveyard. Piles of unwanted, outdated or broken electrical goods stuck in limbo, waiting to enter their next life.

With British Gas raising its prices by up to 25 per cent, there can be little doubt that utility bills in general will currently be a major topic for centre managers.

Carluccio's is one of the most powerful brands in the British catering sector. Since the early 1990s the ebullient Antonio Carluccio has been the UK ambassador for Italian food, and he is still the public face of the company. But while many celebrity chefs have had distinctly chequered business careers, the Carluccio's brand is still going strong after 15 years.

What have you been doing today and more to the point, who's been watching?

Shopping Centre, as a magazine, had its beginnings in the marketing of a major London scheme. Being brought alongside to undertake the entire panoply of marketing activities that a new centre entails gave me a real, in-at-the-deep-end, notion of what shopping centre development can hold for the unwary.

While energy costs are only one of the overheads incurred in relation to retail property, the recent national press coverage with regard to energy costs and the speculated 25% increase in gas prices, should give cause for those involved in retail property to be concerned about the wider energy issues.

Retail-led regeneration lies at the heart of the government's urban policy. In places as diverse as Canterbury and Liverpool, new shops are seen as the key that unlocks a wider economic rebirth.

Peterborough is that curious creature, a town that has two distinct faces, depending on the direction from which you approach it. If you're heading out of London this is the last outpost of the south-east. It may be an hour or so by train from the capital, but go north of here and you're in Lincolnshire with the south well and truly left behind. The same is true if you're coming from the north - this is the point at which you may feel that you have entered the land of louche-living southerners.

An hour or two spent with Bob Cowper is a fascinating experience for anyone remotely interested in the way shopping centres are run. During a career spanning five decades he can justifiably claim to have been in at the birth of many of the management techniques we now take for granted.

Mobile phones could soon be playing an important part in the marketing of shopping centres if a trial in four CSC malls and USS's Telford centre proves a success.

For many shopping centre owners a mall is just a building filled with tenants; a means of extracting the maximum rent for providing a range of services, but mostly for offering appropriate space to retailers. Nothing wrong with that, but providing there is reasonable footfall there is always the potential for it to be something more.

An icy wind howls down Ocean Drive in late January. It is nine o'clock in the morning and the temperature in Leith, the port of Edinburgh, is one degree above freezing. In the giant, red, stone and glass shopping centre only the security man is stirring, and some 16 cows look blankly down from a second floor window.

In spite of Stephen Logue's comments in last month's Shopping Centre (SC January p4), it is reasonable to expect that Christmas 2006 will be every bit as bling-laden as normal. Equally sane to suppose that shopping centre managers will already have some pretty robust plans in place to give their malls a festive buzz 10 months from now.

When preparing for Christmas, what have the suppliers got up their sleeves for 2006? Mark Gosen, managing director of DZD, a London-based firm that specialises in VM materials for retailers and shopping centres supplies many of the firms that deck the malls and is in a position to know.

1 Plan in advance - Christmas is a team exercise that should be planned. If you are looking to involve sponsors this should be thoroughly researched and a dialogue needs to be started early - possibly up to 18 months before.

Retail sales in the UK during January rose only 0.2 per cent on a like-for-like basis against the same period in 2005, when sales increased 0.5 per cent. This made it the weakest start to the year since the survey began in 1995.

The Mall Income Index benchmarks the commercial income generated from mall space in shopping centres across the United Kingdom. The results are based on January 2003 with an index of 100.

The FootFall Index is a UK national benchmark of numbers of visitors to shopping centres and retail centres. Compiled on a 4-4-5 week scheme, it shows month-on-month and year-on-year changes in the number of visitors nationally.

January's Food Feedback brings me to The Gallery - a new Restaurant Court at Centrale, Croydon. The Gallery is roughly the same size as a Food Court but the key difference is that the offers, Papa John's, Spud-u-like, Quizno's and The Real Pasty Company, each operate and clean their own seating area in front of their kiosks. The result - no shared seating and no landlord responsibility.

Wherever your shopping centre is located, whatever its retail content, you are justified in believing that it is different and special. Shoppers visit because of the X factor that gives your centre the appeal that amounts to its USP. So you believe you have a brand.

A press release reaches these parts at what looks like an inappropriate moment. It carries exciting news about a "specialised walling system" manufactured by Knauf Drywall (KD). This would, of course, be commendable and worthy of comment in itself, but what is particularly interesting is the case study that has been supplied aimed at illustrating the advantages of using this product. Apparently in a little-known retail park affectionately dubbed Castlepoint by its devotees, extensive use has been made of Knauf Drywall systems. It seems certain that prior to the near-collapse of a deck of the scheme's car-park, all and sundry were very happy with the Drywalls that had been supplied.

25 centre marketing teams went home clutching trophies after the 2006 Purple Apple marketing awards at the Brewery convention centre in London last week.

BCSC awarded 26 Diplomas in Shopping Centre Management to the Class of 2005 at a ceremony in London last week. The course, run in association with Reading University's College of Estate Management, has now seen 475 students successfully complete the course since 1988.


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