It’s a busy Thursday lunchtime at One New Change when I meet the shopping centre’s Director, Robert Goodman.
And why wouldn’t it be? Retail space at The City of London’s first true shopping hub is fully let and the queues justify the claim that the interesting mix of restaurants and shops are providing a welcome break from the stresses and strains of one of the world’s largest financial centres.
“From a retail point of view, our performance since opening on October 28th has been above expectations,” Goodman explains.
“We’ve opened 60 shops across 220,000 sq ft of retail space in the 15 weeks since opening, and there’s more to come with the arrival of Baby Gap on February 17th.”
The retail mix at the Land Securities-owned One New Change, which is situated opposite St Paul’s Cathedral, one of the capital’s oldest buildings, is fashion and food heavy.
Marks & Spencer (M&S) Simply Food, Topshop and Next anchor the development, but the centre is aided by some big names such as the increasingly ubiquitous Superdry and Gap sister retailer Banana Republic.
Meanwhile restaurants such as Zizzi and Nando’s, as well as Jamie Oliver’s neatly fitted out Barbecoa, offer visitors a range of eateries to choose from morning to evening.
City workers are certainly benefiting from the centre’s arrival, with peak trading times representing the pattern of the working day.
“Unusually for a shopping centre, our busiest day is Thursday and the main sales spikes are in the morning before work starts and at lunchtime,” Goodman explains.
“Over the years retailing has developed, but our new centre is a big step change.
“We’re also noticing that Thursday night is the new Friday night in the City, judging by visitor numbers.”
In December One New Change received more than 300,000 visitors, with stores on the site experiencing a 28 per cent week-on-week sales surge during the week leading up to Christmas Day.
“The whole strategy here was to introduce accessible and aspirational brands,” Goodman remarks.
“We have positioned ourselves on a level with Regent Street - we really didn’t want to go high end as we wanted to keep the centre accessible.”
But what about the weekends? Questions have been raised about the viability of a shopping centre opening in an area that is practically deserted on Saturdays and Sundays in comparison to weekdays.
As Goodman notes, these are typically the days of the week where retailers make the most money, so what is being done to drive footfall to the centre when there are only a few workers around?
“We’re noticing that around 52 per cent of customers at weekends are tourists - French, German and Italians in particular - which results in a high customer spend,” the director said.
“Weekends are around 50 per cent quieter than weekdays on average, but dwell time for Saturday and Sunday shoppers is longer and they tend to spend more money.
“We’ve had a number of events to help attract more customers through the doors at weekends, and we are forcibly working with the City of London from a tourist point of view - clearly there is an opportunity to work with St Paul’s Cathedral, the Museum of London and others.”
Goodman has a real handle on the figures and knows that his centre’s target audience is made up of around 330,000 City of London workers and 6.3 million foreign and domestic annual tourists, as well as the 10,000 people who live in the area.
Perhaps the best indication of how the retail centre sits alongside other tourist hotspots in the vicinity is the way it effectively pays homage to St Paul’s through its design. Architect Jean Nouvel devised the centre so that the old building is impressively reflected in One New Change’s glass at practically every angle.
It could also be argued that One New Change is actually pioneering new retail growth in The City, and considering Goodman’s CV there appears no reason why this will not be a success, as change seems to be his speciality.
Following his early career in store management and head office roles at M&S and in various positions at World Duty Free, Goodman worked in airport retailing jobs that involved overseeing considerable development at Gatwick’s North Terminal and the car parks of Scotland’s major air transport hubs.
For the three and a half years prior to starting his current role in autumn 2010, Goodman was Director of The Centre MK in Milton Keynes, where among other achievements he oversaw the growth of the retail hub’s restaurant offering.
“I’m proud of what I achieved in Milton Keynes, but was very pleased to take the job at Land Securities last year,” he states.
Before One New Change’s arrival in the City many of the retailers on Cheapside and other neighbouring streets literally shut up shop at weekends, but more than 30 outlets have started trading on Saturdays since the centre appeared on the scene.
Goodman is in regular communication with the rest of The City’s retail community and he has been informed that shops in the surrounding area are serving customers as a direct result of One New Change’s presence.
He adds: “From what I understand, the nearby House of Fraser is finding Saturdays very good for trade since One New Change opened.
“I believe it is looking to open permanently on Saturdays, which has to be another real positive of opening up in the City of London.”
Cheapside and the roads around the shiny new shopping centre, such as Bread Street and Milk Street, essentially represent the roots of London’s retail industry as they were the locations for original marketplaces established in the 12th century.
In the 1500s the area was seen as a major commercial hub which, many major wholesale markets called home. Now with Goodman’s direction it is becoming a thriving retail hub once more.