Congratulations on your award for Young Achiever of the Year at this year’s SCEPTRE Awards. What does this award mean to you?
Thank you! Just to be shortlisted meant a lot to me but winning was something else, I really didn’t expect it! It’s been nice to be recognised and I am thrilled to have won. I plan on using this as a platform to grow and develop my career; the award has given me new confidence that I can this job!
You were taken on as Cushman & Wakefield’s first ever apprentice in August 2012. Tell us a bit about your career to date and your role as Marketing & Commercialisation Executive at Cushman & Wakefield?
In my first few weeks I remember thinking ‘this is a breeze’ as it mostly consisted of scheduling social media, liaising with tenants and making purchases. I asked for more responsibility and that is exactly what I got! Very soon into the job I was managing three shopping centre budgets and events alongside my line manager who eventually handed full responsibility for two of our centres to me. It’s been a very steep learning curve but one I am still enjoying. At the end of my year long apprenticeship I was invited to stay on and promoted my current role of marketing and commercialisation executive where I work more widely across C&W’s managed portfolio.
You started your career in a graphic design business. How did you become to have a career within the shopping centre industry?
Graphic design was and still is a hobby of mine and I had always been interested in marketing branding and advertising but I struggled finding a role as the area is so competitive. I was typically competing with graduates, who were equally as keen but with formal qualifications. I took a temporary office junior role in a print and design store, with a view to getting experience. Whilst learning on the job I continued searching and applied (unsuccessfully) for many roles. I discovered the marketing apprenticeship vacancy at C&W having never even thought of shopping centres as being an industry. It was like a whole new world which I had stumbled upon which made me a little nervous and a little excited, however, I was welcomed into the role several weeks later.
What do you see to be the main challenges that lie ahead for retail marketing professionals this year?
Making budgets work harder to drive retail sales whilst remaining conscious of budget, consumer shopping trends and brand values will be a challenge. The shopper should be at the heart of our day-to-day management so it’s really important to understand what they want and how to target them in the most effective way – but this changing so rapidly and so much can affect it. Digital marketing is a great way to reach a wide and tailored audience when conscious of budget and it’s being embraced more and more across all sectors, however, the success of a shopping centre relies on in store sales and getting the two areas to translate to one another is still somewhat of a challenge – there is a balance to strike.
The Shopping Centre industry is evolving rapidly, what do you think is important for shopping centres to offer in order to keep attracting shoppers?
We need to package the centre as an experience and offer more than just shops – I think this is the area where we have the upper hand on online retail. We need to tap into our customers psyche getting them to think about centres as destinations, places they are willing to spend a few hours in eating, drinking and want to keep coming back to. Whilst you need to serve shoppers desires, you also need to offer them something aspiration, non-cliché and unexpected – almost so that they don’t feel like they are in a shopping centre. The F&B offer at Trinity Leeds is a great example of this. Some of the bars there could easily rival any of those on the high street and have given the centre the ability to extend trading hours which is always beneficial. Creating an experience isn’t just limited to the super regional centres either, community shopping centres have a role to play, bring local people and commerce together. I’ve have the privilege of managing such assets.
There has been an increasing use of technology and analytical techniques within shopping centres. How do you think they can positively affect the future of the shopping centre industry?
I love the way the two intertwine to connect the dots, fill in the grey areas and pull everything together. I definitely think using technology is a great thing. It creates theatre, makes shopping fun and engages people and through analytics we can make calculated decisions about our retail mix and shopper behaviour etc. The more we can tweak and tailor our offers, services and campaigns on the back of this, the better. Take email campaigns for example. I could receive weekly emails about products and offers that I have absolutely no interest in and every time I see a marketing email from a shopping centre pop up I growl. On the other hand I could receive emails from the same centre telling me all about products and offers they know I like because I went shopping last weekend, spent a considerable amount of time looking at items and virtually trying them out in a fitting room filled with stock from the entire centre and then used an inbuilt email facility to send screenshots from this experience to myself for later purchasing. In this process, the centre will have gained customer data, delivered good service through offering products I like, and hopefully bought a smile to the customer’s face when they remember how much fun they had.
What advice would you give to any young professional seeking a marketing or commercialisation career within the retail industry?
Be kind to everyone and take time to listen. This industry is so, so small – everyone knows everyone, so making time for people enhances your reputation. My line manager has told me to treat everyone as if they will be a boss one day; this ethos seems to have worked for him so I am sticking with it! I treat our independent retailers with the same reverence as I would do John Lewis. Often the one store is their livelihood, so it’s crucial for it to succeed. Make things work, don’t pass the buck or find excuses to hide behind. Taking ownership isn’t something that came naturally to me but it’s a skill I’m learning. I now understand, even if I deliver my part of the project, but someone else fails (and the campaign falters) it reflects badly. Chasing, checking and following up have become my life.