New Grosvenor Centre boss wants to "create pride within the town"

James Roberts has totally transformed a previous shopping centre and now he is looking forward to getting stuck into improving the Grosvenor Centre. 'Picture: Kirsty Edmonds.
James Roberts has totally transformed a previous shopping centre and now he is looking forward to getting stuck into improving the Grosvenor Centre. 'Picture: Kirsty Edmonds.

A new manager has been appointed at Northampton's Grosvenor Centre - with ideas in mind to get behind the town's shoe and sporting heritage.

James Roberts has been in post for four weeks and is just settling into his new role after being drafted in from transforming the Great Western Arcade in Birmingham, which once stood half empty.

Over the past few years while he has managed the independent shopping arcade, with 39 stores, he has helped to turn over £1 million pound in landlord expenditure.

"It was a major success," he said. "When I started it was half empty. There was no business strategy and no marketing strategy. We worked with the client extensively and I started writing the business plan and marketing strategy for the centre.

"When I left it was 100 per cent occupied. Some of my retailers were turning over more by square feet than Apple, which is a great benchmark as I think Apple does phenomenal trade by square feet."

On the Grosvenor Centre he told the Chron that there is no current need for refurbishment but further improvements could be made, including new centre signage.

When asked where he saw the centre in five years, he said: "It's the legacy about creating a sustainable shopping centre where we have consistency with the turnover and little churn of retailers.

"When stores close it will not be Northampton's that closes first because they're performing really well.

"I want to see the shopping centre integral to the town and people talking positively about it and have a positive experience when they walk through the door to the moment they leave
whether they've spent nothing or lots.

"It has to be a place that's creating pride within the town."

To create pride he suggested to play on the town's shoemaking heritage, motorsport and make improvements to the public realm (spaces in the town's shopping streets used by everyone).

"One of the things, as a fresh pair of eyes coming in, is historical reference. I think we need to be getting the basics right in the public realm and work with the borough council to create safe, clean streets and create more timeless approaches to lighting and paving and do those things before you go to the next stage.

"I think Birmingham is one of those cities where the economy is thriving there, they've done the right things in the right areas. They've still got their challenges, I'm not saying it's perfect but by doing things simply and making a safer environment then we can start reflecting on the history.

"It would be great to see some of the shoe manufacturers and sports in town."

Although the Grosvenor Centre is running at 90 per cent occupancy he recognises that it is his job to take a look at prospective businesses and their plans before they move in.

"We understand it's a challenging market for a number of retailers.

"I think for us as the specialists, as the centre management, our client and letting strategy is to understand how those businesses are performing and that anyone we bring in, in the future, we need to make sure they have a sustainable long-term plan and they have a strong business and work with them to make sure it's the best place to succeed.

"There has to be a local level to understand how major retailers are performing in the Grosvenor but also on a national basis and the constraints they have within the country. We have to have that overall view of how businesses are performing so we can best assist them in the future.

"The thing for me is that we have the right level of footfall and the right level of dwell time so people are spending time and money and that we as a shopping centre are creating things to pull people in."