Entertainment retailer Zavvi is a new name on the UK high street, only emerging last year when Virgin Megastore's managing director Simon Douglas and finance director Steve Peckham took over the portfolio from Richard Branson in a management buyout.

Centre management teams are currently under pressure to create additional value in these difficult economic times. One way to do this is commercialisation, which has come to the fore at many client management meetings recently.

Two massive shopping centres are being planned for Tralee, Co Kerry. At the same time, the local council has turned down a plan by Marks & Spencer to open in the town.

Donegal Town is to get two new shopping centres, despite its small size with about 3,000 residents.

Roscommon County Council has given Dublin-based Palladio Properties the go-ahead for a large mixed use retail and commercial development at Cortober, Carrick-on-Shannon. The development, on a 3.34 ha site, will include a business campus.

An Bord Pleanála has given the go-ahead for the e100m Florentine Centre in the heart of Bray, Co Wicklow. The main shareholder in the scheme is Sean Mulryan's Ballymore Properties.

Italian fashion retailer Benetton has become the newest branded fashion tenant to head to Cosgrave's West End shopping park at Blanchardstown. It will take a new 5,000 sq ft unit, close to Next, on a 25-year lease. Rents are running at ?500 per sq m.

Dublin-based women's fashion chain Sasha is closing five outlets due to soaring rents and much stronger retail competition.

Belfast's Park Centre has begun its third phase of a £10m expansion and refurbishment project.

Westfield's plans for a major John Lewis-anchored shopping centre at Sprucefield, south of Belfast city centre, face a new legal challenge.

Debenhams is to open its first Desire fashion store in Ireland at SVM Properties' Fairhill shopping centre in Ballymena, Northern Ireland. The 20,000 sq ft unit will trade over two levels and is scheduled to open later this year.

Newtownards in Co Down has moved closer to hosting Northern Ireland's biggest shopping centre following a £250m retail project cleared a major hurdle.

Cork is the second largest city in the Republic but until recently, retailing development had lagged far behind what Dublin has experienced over the past two decades. Now all that is changing dramatically.

With a client roster comprising BHS, Topshop, HMV, Waterstone's, Tesco, The Outlet, Abbey Centre and Flagship, among others, no wonder Carson McDowell's Rosemary Carson is considered one of the leading retail solicitors in Northern Ireland.

The 2007 Sceptre Awards are just over a month away now. Once again the superb ballroom at the Dorchester on London's Park Lane will be the stage for the 2007 awards ceremony where presentations in 15 categories will take place on Wednesday 20 June.

Dunnes Stores, with its legendary slogan 'better value beats them all', has long been a dominant force in Irish retailing.

Galway is the fastest growing city in Ireland and its city centre is set to get one of the biggest projects ever put forward in Ireland.

Drogheda may be the fastest-growing regional town in Ireland outside Dublin, but for years, it was seriously undershopped. Many people from Drogheda went to do their big shops at such centres as the Pavilions in Swords and Blanchardstown. But now, all that's changed and they're staying at home to do their shopping.

Belfast has a new landmark. A skyline long dominated by the cranes of the Harland & Wolf shipyard and the Victorian splendour of City Hall now has a new focal point - the elegant glass dome of the Victoria Square shopping centre.

Representatives from Northern Ireland shopping centres jetted off to Boston this month to learn a few tricks from their American counterparts.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern visited Gallico's Athlone Town Centre site for its topping-out ceremony and confirmed that Marks & Spencer is to anchor the ?500m mixed-use project. On completion this autumn, it will be the biggest centre to open in Ireland this year.

A Junction One shopping centre employee has reached the final of the prestigious Drapers Footwear Awards 2007.

Dundrum Town Centre, Crossridge's 90,000 sq m development 5km south of Dublin city centre, scooped the ICSC Europe award for the best new centre, in the very large category at the awards ceremony in Warsaw last month, beating competitors from Finland and Poland.

Land Securities has become the latest property company to boost its green credentials by unveiling its environmental strategy. But in an implied criticism of some of its rivals it has questioned the increasing use of 'carbon offsetting' as a panacea to climate change.

British Land is to sell off a major slice of its 1.5 million-sq ft Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield. It is inviting a number of investors to take a stake in the scheme, but it intends to remain as the largest single investor and will retain the management of the asset.

Sir Philip Green is to open his biggest Topshop/Topman store outside London at Grosvenor's Liverpool One project.

Shopping centre events agency Promotion Space has secured new financial backing from Octopus Private Equity that will allow it to expand into new lines of business as it looks to become a full-service shopping centre marketing company.

Three new retailers have signed up for The Heart in Walton-On-Thames, O&H Properties' £150m mixed-use scheme.

Capital & Regional is about to start work on a major new retail development in Cardiff following final approval for the scheme, which incorporates a new stadium for Cardiff City football club.

Capital Shopping Centres has unveiled plans to revamp the leisure offer at the MetroCentre in Gateshead by relocating the centre's cinema to the space currently occupied by the MetroLand funfair.

A key High Court judgement has successfully upheld landlords' rights to enforce rental guarantees underwritten by their tenants' parent companies.

The advent of clone towns in Britain has become a huge topic of debate over the past few years.

HSBC is one of the most familiar names on the high street, but in recent years there have been fears that call centres and internet banking would render the traditional branch portfolio redundant. However, after a strategic about-turn, face-to-face banking is back in vogue and the bank is once again on the acquisition trail.

In a rapidly changing and demanding environment, shopping centre owners are looking to drive down occupational costs as well as provide a quality service offer. The pressure is now on management to achieve this.

The shortlisting session for this year's SCEPTRE Awards was an illuminating experience, showing the sheer diversity of the shopping centre industry and underlining the real strength in depth that we now have.

== An open letter to the Chancellor ==

A beautiful late spring day found myself and a colleague at the latest offer from the Wyevale Garden Centre Group at its new Bicester unit, close to the factory outlet village. While not strictly a shopping centre, the site offers a variety of complementary retail stores and a selection of foodservice, as well as some striking architecture.

Marketing man Enda McShane, managing director of Spirit Marketing Group, has enjoyed a phenomenal start to his year, having secured a million euros of new business in the first two weeks of 2007.

In a constantly changing and evolving market, new security products continue to make life easier for shopping centre managers and their security teams.

The advent of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and Part M of the Building Regulations mean those responsible for fire protection in shopping malls have a legal obligation to take into account the needs of people with disabilities.

Many shopping centres these days are going the extra mile to ensure their premises are safe places to shop and work.

At over a million sq ft thecentre:mk in Milton Keynes is one of the UK's biggest shopping centres. Its 230 retail units attract over 30 million visitors per year and that puts real stress on the floors and other finishes. That in turn means cleaning is a top priority and the centre has learned that cleaning is a people business.

Despite being sited close to Birmingham city centre and the enormously successful Bullring, The Fort shopping park continues to pull in the crowds.

The shortlists have been announced for this year's SCEPTRE Awards, and centres as far apart as Bideford in Devon and Longford in Ireland will be waiting with baited breath as the golden envelopes are opened at the awards dinner on June 20.

UK retail sales were up 2.4 per cent on a like-for-like basis, compared with April 2006, although the three-month trend rate of growth slipped to 3.3 per cent from 3.5 per cent in March, for like-for-like sales, and to 5.5 per cent from 5.7 per cent for total sales, reflecting the growth of retail space.

== ? Barrow-in-Furness ==

Hempstead Valley in Gillingham, Kent, emerged as the winner of the only Purple Apple award for shopping centre marketing at the BCSC's annual awards event.

BCSC has awarded 31 diplomas in shopping centre management to the Class of 2006 at a ceremony in London. The two-year course, run in association with the College of Estate Management at Reading University, has now seen 506 students successfully undertake it since it was started in 1988.

Whether it's transvestite potters, inside-out houses or pickled sharks, the Turner Prize for contemporary art never fails to garner acres of news coverage. This year the event is sponsored by retail developer Milligan.

GROSVENOR has appointed JOANNE JENNINGS, currently chief executive of Belfast City Centre Management Company as chief executive of Liverpool One.

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