Soft play centre will return four times as large as part of big plans for Northampton shopping centre

A Northampton shopping centre has promised big plans over the next few months for shoppers, with the return of the soft play centre and two new names opening before summer.

After six months in the role, the Grosvenor Centre's new manager James Robert has revealed the next stages of his plans for the town's shopping hub.

Centre manager James Robert wants to create an 'experience led shopping centre'.

Centre manager James Robert wants to create an 'experience led shopping centre'.

He says 2019 will see Grosvenor offer shoppers more leisure options than ever and get involved with the Northamtpon Forward plan to revitalise the town.

James said: "Shopping centres have to adapt and evolve in the same way people do. My team and I are here to make a sustainable business by making an experience-led shopping centre.

"There will be change at the centre regularly. I think it's important for customers to be surprised."

James has come to Northampton fresh from managing the Great Western Arcade retail centre in Birmingham, which went from running with half its units empty when he started to 100 per cent capacity in September 2018.

His team's plans will see the centre offer visitors a blend of leisure and shopping under one roof, which has already begun with the Christmas season's pop-up shops, the ping pong centre and the Screen Northants exhibition.

Work is set to 'imminently' start to convert the former WHSmith into a two-storey River Island outlet. It comes after WHSmith recently moved into Poundworld's vacant unit.

Meanwhile, the centre is working with a yet-unnamed children's charity to reopen the soft play area in the large unit on the top floor - creating a children's play zone four times as large as its predecessor in 2018.

The unit was most recently used by a gin pop up bar over Christmas.

James said: "We're planning on building a colossal chalkboard all along one wall, and gets involved in the decorating by having them paint their hand prints on the walls.

"We also want to include education and charity work at the play centre, and make a place for families built on good will."

Meanwhile, this summer will see a return on free events for families, in the same vein as the Nasty Northampton history talks in 2018.

Lunchtime option Abbie's Kitchen will also join the food and drink options on the top floor before the end of the year.

The centre is also in transitioning through a soft branding redesign - which started with removing the glass awning in Abington Street and could see the sign on the market square removed as well.

James said: "I want to think of different ways of getting customers in and find opportunities to engage with the community.

"We won't tell customers what they want, we want customers to tell us what they want."