“Repurposing” “Maker Movement” “Community Curation” “ICE Movement” - We all love a good buzzword and there are plenty being thrown around in the retail market right now but what do they all mean and how are they actually implemented on a practical level? We were really pleased to welcome Alex Foutris and Alice Watkinson from Bewonder* to our offices today to talk to the team here at MT about how they actually come up with the ideas and implement the initiatives behind the current trends in retail and those all-important buzzwords.

Placemaking (ie. the creation of a destination by connecting the physical environment to people) is understandably a hot topic right now and is one way in which Bewonder* (a creative marketing agency) has been helping property owners and landlords to future-proof their assets. One such example is “Grow at The Grafton” which Bewonder* have been working on with Legal and General at The Grafton Shopping Centre in Cambridge, a project intended to open up vacant but prime retail space in the shopping centre to local individuals and businesses wanting to expand or even just get a foot in the door of the bricks and mortar retail world. The project got off to a fantastic start by utilising local advertising methods and, importantly, social media. 76 applications were received from prospective tenants wanting to win the unit space on offer. This was then whittled down to 3, with the winner shortly to be announced, so watch this space! Although there was only 1 winner, the project has actually resulted in a number of pop–ups at the centre and discussions have been opened up with other prospective ‘local’ tenants. This is only part of The Grafton’s wider strategy, which has included repurposing an old BHS department store on 3 levels to retail, a "food social" area and a gym. Projects like this help to diversify the tenant mix at centres, filling vacant and unused space which other struggling retailers can’t fill, while also promoting a centre’s social values and its interest in the local community - in other words, its customers.

So despite daily updates in the news about declining footfall, store closures and flat-lining retail sales in the UK, retail could actually be an exciting opportunity for landlords who are willing to adapt and provide customers with not just a shopping experience but a whole destination. 

A big thank you to Alex and Alice for sharing your thoughts and ideas with us on this current topic!