Thriving retail environments – Summer Series 2015

Jo Francis, Head of Retail Property Management – Regional Portfolio at The Crown Estate


21 September 2015

We’ve been looking at the results of the Thrive Summer Series healthy living events we ran at ten regional retail destinations – exploring opportunities to make this year’s events programme even better.

Our objectives for Thrive included engaging with our local communities, leaving a lasting legacy and delivering retailer benefit – all linking into our stewardship programme and active approach to asset management. So how did Thrive perform on these objectives and what have we learnt?

In terms of engaging with our local communities, we are delighted! Thrive attracted 3,630 people, including local residents of all ages, mayors, councillors, MPs, sports clubs, health organisations and other community partners. Coverage in local newspapers and on social media reflected the level of local engagement, with 2.8 million reach across all media channels and 100% positive sentiment.

So, what did local people have to say?

  • Great grandmother, who attended with four generations of her family, at Victoria Retail Park in Nottingham: “You’ve completely made our day. Thank you SO much!”
  • Father at the Coliseum Shopping Park in Ellesmere Port: “This is great for Emma; she has sensory problems, so sometimes doesn't enjoy these kind of things, but having the bike challenge has been perfect for her; she's got so stuck into it!”
  • Grandmother at Fosse Shopping Park in Leicester: “It is brilliant to see important topics like this being presented in such an imaginative and engaging way. It’s one of the best things we’ve done all summer.”
  • Mother at Princesshay Shopping Centre in Exeter: “This is amazing – they should do more events for families here.”
  • Father at Victoria Retail Park in Nottingham: “So good to have something like this in the summer holidays – and it hasn’t cost me a penny!”

For leaving a lasting legacy, we also saw positive results. 82% of the hundreds of Thrive visitors surveyed said that it had made them think about living healthier lifestyles. In addition, 304 people signed up for sports classes and cycling courses after trying activities at Thrive. And that was just the ‘on the day’ figure, with many local sports groups reporting a spike in new joiners in the week after Thrive.

In the words of local community sports clubs and organisations:

  • Jane Mann of Class Fitness at the Coliseum Shopping Park in Ellesmere Port: “A really lovely day; we enjoyed ourselves and spoke to lots of people about trying out a free class. The organisers were great and we loved the characters!”
  • Katy Leonard of Active Devon at Princesshay Shopping Centre in Exeter: “A great event to promote health and wellbeing to the community – lots of people getting involved with the Ping! table and learning about active lifestyles and the opportunities locally.”
  • Abby Forbes-Chambers of Abby’s Dance and Theatre Academy at Silverlink Shopping Park in Newcastle: “Such a lovely event, the kids loved performing to the crowd and we spoke to lots of parents interested in starting dance classes.”
  • Owen King of Nottingham School of Black Belts at Victoria Retail Park in Nottingham: “A really good day, with lots of people coming from all over. We’ve had a really good response. I’ve really enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone.”

We had a 15% increase in sales, and the shop was definitely busier than usual. My kids came along and had a fantastic time!”

Marie Corrigan of Pets at Home at Aintree Shopping Park in Liverpool

On delivering retailer benefits, the feedback from store managers at Thrive venues speaks loudly – 94% thought Thrive was a good idea and would like to see more events. Some 50 retailers got involved, donating prizes, running promotions and encouraging staff to take part. Almost half of retailers reported an increase in footfall/sales as a result of Thrive and two thirds used our free promotional materials.

Here are some of the comments from retailers:

  • Marie Corrigan of Pets at Home at Aintree Shopping Park in Liverpool: “We had a 15% increase in sales, and the shop was definitely busier than usual. My kids came along and had a fantastic time!”
  • Gary Chinn of Topman at Princesshay Shopping Centre in Exeter: “The events make more of a multi-faceted experience; they not only increase the footfall but they retain it.”
  • Mark Forrest of M&S at Victoria Retail Park in Nottingham: “Really good idea, anything to bring more people to the Park. We enjoyed taking part and visitors seemed to love our healthy range stand.”
  • Mark Palmer of Maplin at the Coliseum Shopping Park in Ellesmere Port: “A lot of people were at the event and enjoying themselves. We've had a good day.”
  • Heather Coward of Mothercare at Aintree Shopping Park in Liverpool: “The promotional material was great – we used all of it. There was a great buzz on the park and the event was busy.”
  • Rebecca Painter of Subway at Ocean Shopping Park in Portsmouth: “It’s been really good for the Park and we have had people use their vouchers.”

Through our review of Thrive, we have also identified opportunities to make events work even better. On larger schemes, there is the option of extending activities over a couple of days and it could move around different areas of the park, involving and benefiting more retailers and local people. We will also continue to build on our local relationships and, given our wonderfully varied British weather, make sure that events are designed to be fun for visitors come rain or shine.

It’s clear that our visitors have enjoyed learning new things as part of our events, and leaving a legacy is something we take really seriously, so we’ll definitely continue to offer learning opportunities to shoppers while ensuring they have lots of fun.  We’ve got some exciting ideas in the pipeline for 2016 – so watch this space!