Day in the Life of a Shopping Centre Manager – Chris Ward

Day in the Life of a Shopping Centre Manager – Chris Ward

Chris Ward is currently the Centre Manger at the Longton Exchange, a Shopping Centre in Stoke-on-Trent.

Morning Routine:

My morning routine has changed some what over the past couple of months, previously I would for the past three and a half years make a 140-mile daily commute, which I can tell you takes its toll. I now am able to walk into Longton with a 5-minute stroll from where I now live.

I set my alarm to go off at 06:00 which then allows me to gather my thoughts for the day before getting up.

Whilst I am then getting ready, I will of course have a brew and breakfast before leaving the house and taking the dog for a walk. Bear, the dog, will then come into work with me for the day. During this time, I like to vary the routes walking through the park or into areas that I haven’t been before taking time for myself before the workday begins at 9am.

On arriving on site, I typically see a number of regular shoppers who stop and say hello. I will then make my way for a walk of the site both front and back of house as I do I greet the team as I see them. I like to do this to ensure that not only the centre standards and expectations are delivered but also it enables me to see the centre from the eyes of the team as there are often issues the come across.

As I arrive in the office, I will ask Alexa to play some music as the computer sets up before clearing my emails and planning the day.

Workday Highlights:

My workday routine varies as I manage multiple assets along the M6 corridor from Bolton down to Kidderminster. Workdays vary from site-based tasks managing a shopping centre to one of my other assets where I work with heritage consultants and architects for a large residential conversion that I manage on behalf of the landlord.

I work directly for the landlord without the various tiers that you would typically find working for one of the many property management companies resulting in many decisions requiring actioning on their behalf obviously always acting with the owners’ interests.

My role also includes attracting new offerings to the assets that I manage. Directly dealing with this last year for example I was responsible for attracting in nine of the ten new offerings into Longton myself attracting brands such as Coffee House to independent retailers. Drawing up HOT’s managing the process through to key handover working with the solicitors, along with ensuring lease renewals are proactively managed.

I am currently planning and working on the Food & Drink Festival which is held in August along with the Carnival which form two of out three biggest events held in Longton.

The work on The Quarter which is a row of 11 units that were destined for demolition prior to beginning at the centre and coming up with the idea to re-invent this stretch. Managing this and not only ensuring that the contractors work is carried out safely but moreover ensuring the project is delivered in a timely manner. Again, ensuring that we fill these units with a vibrant array of offerings that match the surroundings being created.

Lunchtime Escape:

My lunch time routine varies as to where I am on the day and depending on the location. I will however always take at least 30 minuets away from all work-related tasks. I try and silent my phone and have a break away from it all, whether it be sat in my car or a walk in a park or around a town centre. Its important to take a break away from work, be that the computer, phone or a specific task or activity.

Previously to my change in personal circumstances I would start work early, would have regularly worked through lunch and stayed beyond, not utilise my holiday entitlement. Taking time for yourself is so important, and you do become far more effective. More time doesn’t convert to more productivity and a better output.

Post – Work Delights:

Getting home in the evening I spend time talking to my partner and her children discussing what they have done during the day. I enjoy cooking so will often then set about making a meal, sitting around the table is one of the parts of the day I enjoy the most. I will then often take the dog for a walk before calling my children. A huge ice hockey fan I will often be found watching NHL or equally spending time watch a local team.

Closing Thoughts:

I started in this industry in 2016 officially however I feel my journey throughout my working life has provided me with the skills required to effectively manage the assets I do. From my first ever job as a fish monger, yes my first grown up job was a fish monger working 12 hr days six days a week to pay the bills etc when I had our eldest child leaving college to do so.  I then moved into the security industry which allowed me to work in many areas across the UK and Irland, then into retail management, all have been key to how I work, the standards that I have and the way I manage.

Understanding and creating assets that are attractive, profitable and of value to the communities and businesses they support has changed over the years. However, with creativity the assets that I manage have a future. A quote within the management suite at Longton says ‘If you don’t take risks nothing will change’ Taking no risk can also be a risk!

Over the past few years, I have undertaken professional training to provide a level of understanding be that a management qualification though the CMI or more recently a MSc in Real Estate & Property Management. I would advise anyone to look at furthering their understanding we don’t know it all.

Having passion and a drive for the assets that I manage, I like that I have the freedom to be different, providing solutions that others may avoid. However, at 39years old I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up! Which is something I tell my now teenage sons, its ok not to know the direction you want to be. For me coming into this industry has provided great opportunity to develop both professionally but more so personally.

If you’re looking for new opportunities with Placemaking, or if you’re looking to boost your network within the sector, please reach out and I’d be happy to have a discussion!

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