2020 was the year in which everything changed, but what’s next? Managing retail and leisure destinations in this unique moment presents an essential opportunity to shape the future.  

At ART we have been working closely with Landsec over the past 3 years to provide them with performance analysis tools and a community hub to support their retail destinations. This connected environment has been an important feature to assist site staff and brand-partners in navigating what has been a challenging year for most shopping locations.

We caught up with Colin Wilding, Senior Centre Director for insights at Gunwharf Quays, to get his perspective on the situation from the cultural harbour-front location in the heart of Portsmouth, as they head towards a New Year. 

Non-essential retail was raring to re-open for the run up to Christmas, and guests at Gunwharf Quays were welcomed back with the same commitment to safety they experienced during the reopening in the summer, but this time a covered marquee has also been introduced to provide comfort from inclement weather, should guests need to wait for capacity restrictions to ease.  

“The health and safety of our guests and onsite teams remains our priority as we reopen following the second lockdown” Colin says.  “Our team are all supporting our guests with guidance on social distancing and will be available to help answer any questions with regards to the location of retail brands and the centre’s facilities. The centre signage has also been updated to support these important messages.” 

Analytics help designer outlet teams manage, grow community and map recovery, and long before the pandemic Gunwharf Quays has used Retail Advantage to measure multiple metrics and performance. Right now, Colin tells us that for him and his team “data is incredibly important to help ascertain where queues are likely to form and to allow us to pre-plan the flows around the centre. The more dynamic the availability of data is to us the more quickly we can support our guests and our brand-partners to experience a seamless experience.” 

Home to famous brands, Gunwharf Quays’ strong offering of sportswear, homewares and lifestyle, all with up to 60% off regular retail prices, positioned them well for this year’s situation and  trends.  We are yet to see how the great loungewear pivot will trend post-pandemic, but Colin says “we have noticed a strong shift towards casual wear and homewares as more people are – not surprisingly! – spending a greater proportion of their time at home.”  

Collaboration across the retail outlet and leisure destination community is arguably more important than ever, and it benefits the guests, teams and brand-partners. “Regular updates on learnings and sharing new ideas and innovation have become even more important this year. Trends and behaviours have changed rapidly and the need for immediate communication has definitely increased.” 

The pandemic has given the industry a moment to pause, be imaginative, and reflect on past experience.  So, if Colin could offer himself one piece of advice before starting his career in retail, what would it be?

“Listen to others, respect experience and never underestimate the power of a strong team.”

Good words of advice for us all to take into 2021. Forget ‘new normal’, the New Year is a new beginning towards a ‘better normal.’  

Colin Wilding – Senior Centre Director of Gunwharf Quays

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