Guildford’s Friary Shopping Centre was re-launched this week, with an array of international retail chains opening at the Surrey retail hub for the first time.
Fashion specialists Urban Outfitters and Hollister are among the new names to set up shop at the site joint-owned by Westfield and Hermes, while a selection of existing occupants, such as HMV, have taken the opportunity to revamp their stores to appeal to the modern consumer.
Theo Paphitis’ new lingerie retailer Boux Avenue unveiled its eighth UK store at the centre yesterday, with fellow clothing specialists Republic and River Island also arriving in the south-east market town.
Westfield is renowned for encouraging its retailers to try new concepts and utilise technology within their stores, and the fresh new look of the individual traders combined with the excitement generated by the arrival of new large companies is expected to benefit the local economy.
Guildford has a large percentage of boutique stores located in a quaint village environment and there had been local opposition to new look large stores arriving at The Friary, but Westfield and the borough council see the centre as a platform for regenerating a part of town that has previously experienced low footfall.
Peter Miller, Chief Operating Officer of Westfield, said: “By introducing new large format stores in a contemporary environment we have secured international brands which enhance Guildford’s overall retail proposition.”
And the plethora of new retailers setting up at The Friary may also encourage residents not to head out of town to do their shopping at nearby Kingston or London.
“This project enables retailers to tap into Guildford’s affluent catchment and gives consumers a much wider choice within the town,” Miller added.
As well as new store designs complete with interactive technology and appealing merchandising displays, today’s Friary re-launch saw half-naked men patrolling the doors outside Hollister and much fanfare as the Boux Avenue store was unveiled by Paphitis himself. Westfield staff were on hand to meet and greet visitors too.
It is this kind of theatre that the Dragons’ Den star and former La Senza boss believes is necessary for retailers to survive and thrive while the UK finds itself in a concerning economic slump.
“Experience for the shopper is key,” Paphitis told Retail Gazette.
“We’ve got to offer customers theatre and we’ve got to give value for money.
“You talk about shopping online at the click of a button, but you’ve got to give them more than that.”
With its new stores and fresh appearance The Friary in Guildford is striving to do just that, just in time for the busiest shopping period of the year.