Joules to join Festival Place as mall sees spending upswing
AEW has announced that Joules has signed to open at Festival Place, the 1.1m sq ft retail and leisure destination in Basingstoke town centre that has been evolving steadily in the past few years and that’s seeing rising sales as a result. It will be Joules’ second store in Hampshire with the company opening a 3,000 sq ft unit at the centre.
It’s a good move for Joules as Festival Place seems to be one of the shopping centres on the winning side as Britain goes through a period of radical evolution in the way its citizens shop. It was placed at 17th and 21st in two major shopping centre rankings recently and is the highest ranked shopping centre outside a major city.
Joules will be joining a strong fashion contingent already among the 200 businesses there with its line-up including Jack Wills, Fat Face, River Island, Next, Gap, Zara, H&M, Phase Eight, Oasis and Lipsy, among others.
The firm’s Retail and Customer Experience Director Andrea Gray said the opening will give it “a strong platform within Hampshire to reach our existing online customers and to attract new and affluent consumers. Opening in such an innovative and evolving retail destination gives us great confidence moving forward”.
And ‘affluent’ is the key word there. The location’s catchment includes a surrounding area with an above average income compared to the UK as a whole. Some 1.7 million residents are within a 30-minute drive, and 11,500 office workers within a 10-minute walk.
To attract these consumers to the mall, there has been extensive repositioning programme for Festival Place since AEW took over in 2015 that has also helped to lure new and increasingly aspirational brands to the destination.
The mall is “continuing to perform extremely well,” AEW said and further demonstrating that the destination is bucking trends when compared to other retail destinations, it has signed in excess of 80 new tenants since January 2016.
Centre Director Neil Churchill told fashionnetwork.com that this hasn’t been achieved without a lot of work on AEW’s part.
“AEW have really evolved the scheme into what it is today. They’ve committed to investment to really modernise it and put it into the top 20 premier shopping destinations. We have a relatively affluent catchment and we felt it was necessary to evolve the scheme to meet their needs”.
That hasn’t only meant investing in the stores, but in key features such as a “state fo the art” car park and the food and drink offer. “There have been improvements around the aesthetics too,” he said, adding that this has helped AEW achieve those 80 deals over the last three years. These deals included “rightsizing stores”. For instance it saw that it had “an undersized Next and an opportunity with the BHS unit that we got back” following that company’s collapse.
That move to upgrade retailers to larger stores makes sense because one of the insights that has come out of the firm’s ongoing consumer research is that they want to see a wider offer from the brands there, with bigger stores where appropriate.
And Churchill said that considering how weak the market is, “we’ve really benefited. Rather than us seeing closures and CVAs, we’ve been doing more deals than ever. We outperform out competitors and the brands we’ve introduced are more aspirational, Joules being among them”.
Not that Festival Place is trying to become ‘exclusive’. Churchill said that “the likes of Joules are accessible to everyone. It’s not about turning off an element of our customer base. It’s about improving and evolving organically and providing what they’re asking for”.
This seems to be paying off with the company saying that, aside from the consumers who would go there because it’s their local shopping centre, 24% of shoppers now visit more often because the choice of stores has changed and 13% do so because of changes to the look-and-feel of the centre (based on CACI research). Dwell time is also longer and the average retail spend has increased when compared to just before the AEW-driven refurbishment work started.
Given the overall drop in shopping centre footfall in the UK generally, Festival Place hasn’t been immune, but Churchill said any dips have been “marginal” compared to more significant percentages across the country, and the consumers who visit are prepared to spend.
“We measure footfall and sales and we have a seen a marginal drop-off, but our sales are increasing,” Churchill explained. “The people coming are spending more”.
And at times, visitor traffic sees spikes too. “Black Friday was hugely successful for us,” he said. “A combination of the deals that were on offer and it coinciding with payday meant we saw a significant increases in footfall and sales”.
And to boost that further, in every weekend leading up to Christmas the company is staging activities for families that have been “hugely successful” so far. These might be shopping-related or just about experiences, such as flower therapy sessions.
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