Q&A with Mark Bourgeois
What were your highlights of 2015?
It is great to see how our centres continue to deliver such solid performance with high footfall, strong occupancy and positive retailer trading. I was particularly excited by the take up of Click & Collect across the portfolio following the rollout of Collect+ in the first quarter.
On the asset management front, the Wood Green Travelodge deal was illustrative of our flexible approach. Having secured an agreement for lease for 35 rooms, the team went on to negotiate an extension to 78 rooms, thereby securing further value from this previously under-utilised space. A good example of stretching the Capex pot to drive further income.
Leisure was a key theme of lettings in 2015 – do you expect that to continue?
The portfolio leisure content has moved from 6.5% to 8.3% in the last 12 months and I see that trend continuing. There are so many exciting new leisure concepts coming to the market and our customers really enjoy trying out different experiences.
What has been the response to the Walthamstow refurbishment?
Our shoppers have loved the changes and we have received all sorts of great feedback. Embracing Walthamstow’s cultural heritage with the William Morris inspired “floating ribbon” and the celebration of local heroes has been particularly well received. The response from retailers has also been very positive.
What is the biggest challenge facing shopping centres?
Maintaining relevance in a multichannel world is critical. Those that deliver an experiential venue offering multi-channel convenience will prosper. Those that do not will evolve to become something completely different incorporating more residential and community uses. The C&R portfolio benefits from strong multi-channel relevance whilst containing all sorts of opportunities for continued sustainable growth evolution.
What are the most exciting opportunities across the portfolio?
The opportunities beyond retail are really exciting. The residential element in Walthamstow is an obvious one, and we see similar angles in Camberley. There’s further leisure demand in Blackburn and Maidstone and we’ve identified innovative schemes to deliver an evolved offer. In Luton and Wood Green, there are hugely exciting council- led town-wide regeneration plans which offer enormous potential too.
How important is the connection of shopping centres with their local communities?
Community underpins the success of our centres. As such, connecting with communities is a crucial part of the C&R strategy. We do this in many ways: physically, digitally, emotionally, commercially and responsibly. It means that in parallel to delivering great returns for our investors, we’re doing the right thing locally, and that’s a huge source of pride and motivation for C&R people.
What are your priorities for the next year and beyond?
To develop and support a first class team to maintain momentum on the Capex plan and deliver further growth for the C&R business.
The portfolio leisure content has moved from 6.5% to 8.5% in the last 12 months and I see that trend continuing. There are so many exciting new leisure concepts coming to the market and our customers really enjoy trying out different experiences.
Mark Bourgeois, Executive Director