Shopping centres must embrace a future of change say Miles Dunnett of Grosvenor

Liverpool ONE has contributed £3.3bn to the economy since it was launched a decade ago, according to figures published by parent company Grosvenor to celebrate the shopping centre’s anniversary.

The figures both reflect how much of a contribution retail centres make to the wider economy and highlight the pace at which the sector is changing, says Miles Dunnett, director of portfolio management at Grosvenor Europe.

Miles Dunnett - director of portfolio management for Grosvenor Europe
Miles Dunnett - director of portfolio management for Grosvenor Europe

“From the outset, our goals for Liverpool ONE were to reinvigorate Liverpool’s retail and leisure offer, create a connected mixed-use destination that local residents could be proud of and, overall, to deliver lasting commercial and social benefits to the Liverpool City Region,” says Dunnett.

“We recognise that Liverpool ONE wasn’t just about property investment but also the economic and social turnaround for the city. Our commitment and determination to deliver this promise has exceeded all expectations and we are extremely proud to have helped achieve great things for Liverpool over the past ten years.”

According to Grosvenor’s figures, Liverpool ONE has become responsible for £1.20 of every £100 generated in the Liverpool City Region. It has contributed £1.6bn to the UK Exchequer, created the equivalent of 4,700 full time jobs, and helped Liverpool’s retail performance expand at more than ten times the national rate between 2007 and 2013. “The figures were surprising, even to us, when they came together,” says Dunnett.

The centre has also donated £2m to the local community through the Liverpool ONE Foundation. And it has contributed £3.3bn to the wider economy, half in wages to staff employed at the centre or by companies supplying it.

Figures like these are impressing people outside retail property companies. Local authorities are starting to recognise the contribution that retail makes, says Dunnett, by investing more in attracting stores and customers to particular areas. He notes that this is juxtaposed by scare stories heralding the demise of physical stores.

“It’s undeniable that it [shopping] has changed, and that people have more choice. So one of my bugbears is [claims that] ‘retail is dead’. Well, in good locations that’s not true. And in really convenient, immediate locations it’s not true either,” he says.

But shopping centre owners, like retailers, have had to improve their offer substantially to appeal to consumers. Dunnett says that the game has changed considerably in the ten years that Liverpool ONE has been trading, and that the pace of change is only likely to increase.

“Retail models have changed… and this is facilitated by technology,” says Dunnett, who adds that factors such as value for money are ‘hygiene factors’ that are taken as read by consumers. Instead, shoppers are conscious of value for time, and of the benefits they get from shopping at a venue like Liverpool ONE compared to the alternatives, he says.

Issues such as these will inform the future direction of Liverpool ONE over the next decade. The only sure thing is that it won’t offer more of the same, says Dunnett: “More of the same wouldn’t cut it. And more of the same wouldn’t cut it well within that ten years… Ten years ago putting customer experience at the forefront of everything we did was a little bit unusual. It’s not so much now.”

But what changes will the future bring? A number of features that help to make the centre engaging and relevant to customers, says Dunnett - and Grosvenor is listening to consumers as closely as it is to retailers to find out what they would like.

Nothing is off the table, and the demand for non-transactional, social spaces is one of the subjects under consideration. “Should we be bringing libraries back, should we be offering some kind of cultural space?” asks Dunnett. “It’s about social hubs as much as retailing. I can see that we will be introducing other uses.”

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