SPR Site Visit: Bluewater Shopping Centre, 9th March 2018

A dozen SPR members enjoyed a two-hour visit to the landmark shopping centre, led by Landsec, the property’s joint owners and managers.

Robert Hardie, (Senior Portfolio Manager, Retail), Craig Flanders (Portfolio Surveyor) and Jennie O’Connell (Senior Consumer Insights Manager) shared their knowledge of the centre in a presentation at the start of the visit.

They explained how the centre is constantly being refreshed with the entry of new tenants, particularly international brands, and through changes in the design of the units. Successful online retailers are being encouraged to take space, as in the case of Missguided – shown below – which has opened one of just two UK stores here.  Shop units are gradually growing in size as more retailers are looking for a showroom function as part of their multi-channel offer, not just selling space.

Consumer research is of great importance for Landsec, as a way of understanding how the centre’s guests use it and feel about it, from the stores they visit through to the public facilities and catering services they use.  Combining this with demographic and lifestyle information, Landsec have built up a detailed profile of the typical Bluewater visitor.  One conclusion of this research has been that a Primark store needs to be added to the tenant mix, and indeed warrants the construction of a special 62,000 foot space on one side of the centre.  Another finding was that visitors would like more Asian food in the catering offer and less Italian.

The managers are constantly looking to boost visitor numbers and raise dwell-times, not just through the range of shopping but also from other attractions.  For instance, the last few summers a Bluewater beach has been created next to the centre and has proved hugely popular with families, who form a big share of its guests.

After the presentation, the Landsec team, including General Manager Robert Goodman, who has worked at the centre since it opened in 1994, led a tour, which highlighted some key examples of retail space innovations, such as the redesign of Next with an external glass wall to allow natural light in, and the Tesla car showroom.  SPR members also benefited from the chance to question the team further during the tour.

Primark’s unit under construction.

Tim Horsey