As the spring shopping centre opening season draws nearer, significant letting landmarks have been achieved on at least two of the new crop of malls. This spring will see major openings in Belfast, High Wycombe, Cambridge and Liverpool.

Multi Development has overcome the last major hurdle on its third UK project, the £300m Summer Row development in Wolverhampton, and work is expected to start on site within weeks.

Last month's reader poll at [http://www.shopping-centre.co.uk] was: Do you expect the level of vacant retail units to increase in 2008? 83 per cent said 'Yes' and 17 per cent said 'No'

Three major international brands have shrugged off doubts about the UK economy and decided to enter the market for the first time. The moves will be good news for developers looking to lease new malls.

Land Securities has sold the Coppergate shopping centre in York, plus an adjoining development site, to LaSalle Investment Management.

Commercialisation agency Promotion Space has appointed ex-BCSC president Richard Wright as group chairman, to support its ambitious growth plans.

Coventry city council is preparing a radical initiative to transform its city centre, including the possibility of doubling the amount of retail space by linking the four existing shopping centres. Working in partnership with key landowners and retail developers, the council has selected US-based architects, The Jerde Partnership, to create a masterplan for a new city centre.

The Mall has secured TK Maxx as an anchor tenant for its St George's Square development at The Mall Luton, just as the scheme is about to start on site. And Marks & Spencer has committed to relocate within the centre, doubling its presence to 70,000 sq ft.

Miller Developments might have sold its 50 per cent stake in regeneration specialist Centros Miller to joint venture partner Delancey, but the company insists it remains committed to retail development.

Dubai has the unfortunate reputation of being a gas-guzzling and energy-profligate society, the epitome of unsustainable living. Large indigenous oil reserves mean that oil is cheap and energy is worth little. The citizens of Dubai are among those generating the largest amount of waste per head in the world. Despite this, some of the city's major mall owners are considering ways to respond to environmental and sustainability challenges.

The January edition of Shopping Centre carried a letter from Ian Waterman expressing his delight at seeing that Princesshay had won the BCSC Supreme Gold Medal at the awards ceremony in December. He then went on to say that the complex is "renowned for having problems with its lifts, with stores experiencing regular breakdowns". I am not sure quite how Mr Waterman reaches a view that Princesshay is renowned in this respect, but as somebody who has lived with the development and implementation of the scheme over the last decade, I can honestly say that the many comments, emails, letters and visitor feedback that we have had have been virtually unanimously glowing about the scheme and the way it works.

News that British Land has had to knock another £80m off the value of its Meadowhall regional mall in the final quarter of the year was not unexpected. And indeed some might have expected the valuers to be even more pessimistic.

T his year will see more shopping centre space completed than ever before in the UK, and one developer in particular, Grosvenor, is delivering two of the most significant schemes. Liverpool One and Grand Arcade, Cambridge, will provide almost 2 million sq ft of retail space between them. And opening day is now just weeks away.

More often than not these days, retail developments in city centres are centred around regeneration. There are a huge number of regeneration projects currently ongoing across the UK - all in various stages of build.

Commercialisation is now a huge part of every shopping centre's business and as such it's necessary to have a dedicated team of people working solely on this area of income generation.

Brands are increasingly turning to experiential marketing and sampling to market their products or services, and shopping centres are ideal places for this kind of activity to take place.

Store fronts are being turned into new ways for malls and retailers to generate additional income, thanks to new technology from 3M, WindowGain and Tensator.

Chelmsford has long been known as the shopping 'mecca' of mid-Essex. Currently serving a population that stretches as far out as Brentwood to the south and Braintree to the north, the town has two modern shopping centres at its heart: High Chelmer, which was built in the early 1970s, initially as an open-air scheme, and The Meadows, which opened in 1992 at the south end of the High Street.

The SCEPTRE Awards, rewarding the best practice and the best people in the UK's shopping centre industry, are back - and they're bigger and better than ever.

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HENDERSON GLOBAL INVESTORS has appointed ALICE BREHENY as head of property research following Patrick Bushnell's decision to retire and take on a non-executive role for the business.

Ocean Terminal at Leith has become the first Scottish shopping centre to house an indoor urban skatepark. Transgression Park - run by the Scottish extreme sports company, EHX - is bringing the shopping centre alive with action as novices and enthusiasts alike practise skateboarding, rollerblading, BMX, break dancing and tricking.

Unfit gamers in East Kilbride are taking advantage of a unique new temporary service at Scotland's largest undercover shopping centre. Following reports of pulled muscles and aching joints as a result of playing Nintendo's hugely popular interactive Wii console, East Kilbride shopping centre has teamed up with a leading EK masseuse to launch the country's first Wii clinic.

Sutton's St Nicholas Centre hosted over 1,200 eager school pupils for the Bike FX competition at the end of January.

Joe O'Reilly's Castlethorn Construction has unveiled its latest mega-development, Adamstown Central, in western Dublin. Adamstown is being created as a totally new town that's expected to have 30,000 inhabitants by 2015, the same size as present day Drogheda or Dundalk.

The chq centre in Dublin's docklands is on target to become the latest upmarket shopping venue in Dublin city centre.

A consortium led by Blackrock International Land - a spin-off from Fyffes property company - has been selected by Dublin City Council as the preferred bidder for the redevelopment of the three-acre Market Area in the city centre.

With less than a month to go until opening, Multi Development has signed another tranche of retailers for its £400m Victoria Square scheme in Belfast. Free Spirit, The Pier, Pepe Jeans, Pumpkin Patch, Douglas & Grahame, Starbucks, O2 and Hobbs will join more than 40 tenants already signed up.

Tesco Ireland has begun work on a major new convenience and comparison retail scheme in Maynooth. The 9.1 ha site is an amalgamation of the former Mart site and existing shopping centre.

Revised plans for a major mixed-use development in Tullamore, Co Offaly, are to be submitted to the local authority. Tullamore Town Council had refused permission for a €150m mixed retail, commercial and residential scheme at Church Street in the Midlands town, on the grounds of excessive scale. The original application had included 14,000 sq m of retail space.

Carpetright, the UK residential carpet and floor covering retailer, is continuing to expand in Ireland. The company now has 24 retail outlets in Ireland after the latest opening, in Ennis, Co Clare. A new outlet is due to open in Castlebar, Co Mayo, soon, as is a second new store destined for Rathfarnham, South Dublin.

The developers behind two of the biggest schemes ever planned in Ireland, both located in Co. Wicklow, are busy objecting to each other's plans.

Galway city council has over-ruled opposition from local residents, their own planners and even the city manager to a planned extension at the new Briarhill shopping centre.

Plans for the new €300m Citymart mixed-use retail, commercial and residential scheme in Kilkenny, which would rival the recently opened MacDonagh Junction centre in size, have been thrown out by the local authorities responsible.

Albion Properties has been asked by Dublin City Council to revamp its plans for redeveloping the Phibsboro shopping centre and the adjacent Dalymount Park soccer stadium in north Dublin.

This year may prove to be tighter than last year, which saw spectacular centre openings, especially Athlone Town Centre, the MacDonagh Junction scheme in Kilkenny and the Bridgewater centre in Arklow, Co Wicklow. In short, 2008 is likely to be a year of consolidation.

Garrett Kelleher, the 46-year-old Irish developer behind the vast Chicago Spire apartment development, which stands at more than 600 metres tall, in the eponymous US city, has also spearheaded Ireland's first multicultural shopping centre - Moore Street Mall in central Dublin, which opened recently.

Boots, which now has a string of retail outlets across the Republic, has found Ireland a great market for healthy sales and margins since it arrived in 1996. Substantial expansion is on the cards, helped by the fact that in a highly intensive marketplace, supermarkets sell limited amounts of over-the-counter pharmaceutical products and in-store pharmacies are virtually unknown.

Irish Bank shares took a tumble at the end of January after analysts at UBS issued a bearish research note warning of their over-exposure to the commercial property market.

This year promises to be the most challenging in living memory for the shopping centre development community. The jury is out on where property values are going - some analysts are forecasting a crash while others believe a soft landing is the most likely scenario.

While Northern Ireland was still affected by the recent market changes and 'credit crunch' the current outlook for the retail, jobs and business market in the country is still very much a positive one.

Over the last decade retailers have capitalised on the growing affluence of Irish consumers and expanded into the Irish Republic's E24.4bn retail market, which has grown by 34 per cent over the last five years. As major new shopping centres lift customer spend and a relaxation of store size limits enables development, major international retailers from Ikea to Lidl are being attracted to Ireland's shores.

On a recent trip into Leeds, in between meetings, I was in need of something quick, healthy and most of all different, so I stopped by Bagel Nash in The Light. The Light is a leisure and fashion destination in Leeds city centre, and its foodservice combines national brands such as Browns, Nandos and Starbucks with local brands such as Brio, Maxi's and Bagel Nash. It is typical of modern developer thinking to incorporate a local flavour into the foodservice mix as a way of avoiding fascia fatigue.

Competition is rife at Christmas time to ensure those all-important shoppers visit your centre over other competition, so getting the decorations right is key. However, there are mixed views from industry experts over what will be popular in 2008.

Low footfall at the beginning of December culminated in last minute panic buying in the final days before Christmas, according to industry analysts.

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