Drake Circus, the P&O scheme under development in Plymouth city centre, has attracted a raft of new retailers easing it to the 80 per cent-let mark seven months ahead of opening. River Island, Schuh, Fraser Hart, O2, Bershka and Carphone Warehouse have all recently signed on the dotted line, with River Island taking a 13,500 sq ft store on a 15-year lease. The Bershka shop will the Inditex-owned retailer's third store in the UK; it is also trading in the MetroCentre and on Oxford Street.

Natural, a chain of cafés for the health-conscious, is set to roll its format out across London and the South East at the rate of one a month with the intention of bringing to 30 the number of branches by the end of next year. Blair Kirkman has been appointed as sole agent and the move comes in response to the success of similar formats in the US.

The latest reader poll on [http://www.shopping-centre.co.uk] was: will retailers enjoy stronger sales in 2006 than in 2005?

Debenhams occupies more than 25 per cent of Ayr Central's total floorspace

Henry Boot Developments' 350,000 sq ft Ayr Central sees its 85,000-sq ft anchor tenant, Debenhams, opening its doors to shoppers this week. The store trades over two floors and has an off-site warehouse in Newbridge near Edinburgh with the store itself only having a small stockroom.

Shopping Centre has teamed up with the UK's leading destination marketing agency for retail, travel and leisure, Fox Kalomaski, to undertake the first ever survey of attitudes within the shopping centre profession.

Richard Bonner, property director of Peel Holdings' Trafford Centre in Manchester, died suddenly of a heart attack earlier his month.

The ICSC is holding its annual get-together in Copenhagen next month. Chaired by Søren Brogaard, managing director Denmark at Scandinavian owner and developer Steen and Strøm, the conference runs from April 26 to 28 and takes as its focus the debate on how to "Get value through design."

This week sees one of the first centre openings of the year, with phase one of Henry Boot Developments' Ayr Central welcoming shoppers.

There will be stabilisation in the retail trade even though there are plenty of economic scare stories floating around the industry. That's the news Bridget Rosewell, founder of Volterra Consulting and chief economic adviser to the Greater London Authority imparted to the 650-plus delegates at this year's BCSC Shopping Centre Management Conference & Exhibition staged in Edinburgh.

The SCEPTRE Awards, rewarding the best practice and the best people in the UK and Ireland shopping centre industry, are back -- with a fabulous new venue.

John Strachan, global head of retail at Cushman & Wakefield and this year's president of the BCSC, cuts a debonair figure as he strides around his office in London's Portman Square.

A week or so ago, BCSC staged its Centre Management Conference entitled, for some obscure reason, 'In the Spotlight'.

I was disappointed to see yet another negative and somewhat inaccurate article relating to Cumbernauld, on this occasion in Shopping Centre's January issue. The Cumbernauld Centre has been under fire from the media for a considerable period of time due to the inactivity in the creation of the Antonine Centre which has been promised to the town of Cumbernauld for over ten years. Unfortunately this development is not under our control and has been somewhat difficult to achieve due to the various land ownerships and other legalities that have hampered the project.

Parks like Glasgow Fort are attracting a diverse tenant mix

Open A1 park...shopping park...fashion park. The industry is still struggling for a definition but what's clear is that retailers, investors and, most importantly, shoppers know one when they see one.

If a decent cup of coffee is all you have ever wanted, then the chances are reasonably high that you have sampled the wares of a Costa café. This is a high-profile player in what is, by any standards, a crowded sector - almost every would-be entrepreneur is of the opinion that when all else fails it's probably time to set up a chain of cafés.

There is no doubt that times are getting tough for our retail partners. We are starting to see staff layoffs - or downsizing to use the more modern and generally acceptable term. And with all the genuine bad news about, what are we doing to show sympathy and support?

The Peacocks, a shopping centre with a gla of 325,000 sq ft in the middle of Woking, is a piece of 1992 history. Centre manager William Welstead says: "Structurally it's pretty much the same as it was. The actual design of the centre is loosely based on a sort of Art Deco theme and there is some of this left, but over the years, some of it has been taken down." He adds: "As time has marched on there has been a tendency for shopping centres to become more minimalist."

In theory, in less than a month, shopping centre managers will have another piece of legislation to deal with when the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) comes into effect. None of its provisions should be a surprise because the RRO has been looming for some time. Its net effect is to mop up the somewhat piecemeal legislative framework that currently exists in relation to fire safety and to enact one all-encompassing statute.

Shopping Centre and its two quarterly sister magazines Shopping Centre Ireland and Shopping Centre Parking are relaunching their presence on the world wide web.

== ? Ashton-under-Lyne ==

== ? Lion Yard Shopping Centre, Cambridge - ==

It was a cold, wet, snowy Thursday and I found myself Canalside at The Mailbox, Birmingham: an upmarket retail destination which boasts a strong and varied catering offer.

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

Retail sales in the UK during February rose 0.6 per cent on a like-for-like basis against a weak comparative in February 2005, when sales had fallen. The three-month trend rate of growth weakened in February to 0.9 per cent from 1.1 per cent in January for like-for-like sales, but rose to 4.2 per cent from 3.6 per cent for total sales, reflecting the continued growth of retail space.

February's footfall numbers revealed a 5.4 per cent decline in growth, y-o-y. This downward trend has persisted since July 2005. Analysts have citied increased internet usage and, more recently, the cold weather, as possible reasons for the fall in shopper numbers.

The FootFall Regional Index is a UK regional benchmark of visitor numbers to shopping centres and retail centres. The South West including Yeovil's Quedam Centre (above) was the star performer, achieving almost double the growth of any other region. Source: FootFall, 0121 711 4652

Print Pod provides photographic prints from digital cameras

When it comes to vending in a shopping centre the options might, at first sight, appear limited. However in reality the choices are diverse -- from having your picture taken to getting rid of loose change.

Delegates at the BCSC shopping centre management conference in Edinburgh raised over £5,000 for the British Dyslexia Association through the black-tie dinner held in the Edinburgh Royal Museum.

Shopping Centre's founder and special projects editor Eric Williams was honoured with a special presentation at the Edinburgh conference.

Essex folk are probably no more forgetful than the rest of us, but at Lakeside they're playing safe.

THE MALL has appointed KEN WILLIAMS as the new general manager of The Mall Preston. He spent 15 years in management for Littlewoods, rising to become head of product marketing and trade planning for the group.

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