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Left: ACROSS Online Special January, Right: Neil Churchill | Credit: Festival Place
Left: ACROSS Online Special January, Right: Neil Churchill | Credit: Festival Place


“A strategic approach such as expanding in non-retail vital services increases exposure to the local community and leads to new leases or lease extensions,” states Neil Churchill, Center Director of Festival Place, Basingstoke.

The last few years have seen a period of accelerated change across the retail landscape. The decline of department stores and the continued growth of e-commerce has well and truly challenged the status quo and forced both retailers and retail property owners to adapt quickly. In common with many of the UK’s largest shopping centers, Festival Place has worked hard to redefine its role and to ensure that it remains relevant to – and engaged with – its visitors. Issues that had begun to surface pre-Covid were suddenly brought to the fore and the management team acted quickly and decisively to deliver a clearly defined leasing strategy.

We have worked hard to deliver more local and independent retail operators, working in close partnership to support their growth and success. We have also increased our provision of vital services to increase our exposure to the local community. This tailored strategic approach has proven successful for Festival Place, which has delivered around 25 new leases or lease extensions since the beginning of 2021 – retaining key brands and attracting exciting new operators such as Brewdog, MINISO, and Ted Baker, alongside a number of local operators. This is also supported by the extension of vital services offered, including the launch of a permanent community health clinic in June 2022.

Despite having endured a torrid time and with further economic challenges on the horizon, we are beginning to see some more encouraging signs emerge for the retail sector. And while we are certainly experiencing positive footfall and trading, we have also been consistently outperforming the UK shopping centers benchmark for the past two consecutive years. This opens up new opportunities for leasing and repurposing spaces in a curated way, allowing for local operators to grow their footprint while developing additional non-retail community spaces that cater to the needs of our community.

Neil Churchill
Neil Churchill

Neil Churchill is the Center Director of Festival Place, Basingstoke.

Read more about expert opinions in our Online Special: “Industry Outlook 2023”.


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