SCMC 2016 Report: Local heroes
Published: 14 April, 2016
Shopping centre managers need to ensure they get involved in local decision making so they can be influential over plans for local economic development and regeneration.
Centre director of Churchill Square in Brighton, Mark Buchanan Smith, said negotiating skills are essential for dealing with local partners, particularly when it comes to devolution, BIDs, local business forums, and communicating with property owners and asset managers.
“I would advise you have the best skills for the job,” he said. “Look at what training and coaching is available. Look at what you need to brush up on, for example listening skills and negotiation skills. Look at different management techniques, such as your insights profile so you understand how to communicate and who you need to communicate with.
“You need a good understanding of the layers of your local authority. Which officers are responsible for different areas and which councillors sit on what boards?”
And he advised: “Make sure you are on the right stakeholder groups and forums and listen carefully to understand the political landscape in the city. If possible, position yourself when opportunities come up to get on those forums so you can positively influence what’s happening in your city.
Nick Hibberd, acting executive director of environment, development and housing at Brighton and Hove Council, added: “If you look at Brighton as a regional retail destination then the importance of a shopping centre as part of the city’s economy is paramount, but the importance of the centre manager engaging with the city and with the local authority is essential.
“Understanding the dynamic between a big shopping centre and what is the really thriving independent retail sector and how we manage that is important to me and therefore the views of the shopping centre manager are important.”
And Angus Stenhouse, retail portfolio manager at Standard Life Investments, reiterated the importance for an investor to engage on a local level from an early stage. “When you begin a project, as an investor, that engagement has to go in at the very beginning and if you expect a decision too late down the line, you won’t get it,” he said. “You have people on the back foot. Engage with local authorities to understand what their agenda is and then try to work out if it’s actually achievable. And that will affect what you are looking at in terms of your development strategy.”