5 Minutes With Ian Ward, General Manager, The Broadway, Bradford

It's been two years since The Broadway shopping centre opened in Bradford, so we caught up with general manager Ian Ward to find out what shopping centres need to be doing in order to remain profitable and relevant during these challenging times in UK retail.

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Ian Ward The Broadway

Tell us about the Broadway shopping centre.

The Broadway opened its doors in November 2015, it was a highly anticipated opening in the region with many retailers new to Bradford. Highlights include welcoming The Light cinema to our portfolio which gave the Centre a strong push towards our overarching aim of being the leisure destination in Bradford. We’ve also signed up 16 new retailers since we opened including Footlocker, Apricot and Game.

What’s in store for Broadway in 2018?

2018 has been a fantastic year for The Broadway so far, with the launch of The Light being the cherry on the top and there’s still a few more months to go.

We’ve just launched relaxation zones in the centre where customers can take some time out and charge their phones in exclusively designed seating pods. We have a pipeline of new restaurants to announce and this summer we’ve launched our six-week long Superhero Kids Club which will see the centre visited by some very famous Marvel characters each week.

The team at The Broadway is looking ahead to a Student Lock In event in September and the “golden quarter”, which will see the launch of a brand new Christmas decoration.

What are your thoughts on the state of shopping centres in the UK?

It’s a challenging market, that’s no secret. Footfall verses the emergence and rise of online shopping calls for retailers and shopping centres to think more strategically and creatively. Customer will always yearn to touch and feel products, but we must embrace the requirement to transform shopping destinations into leisure destinations that offer the whole package to drive footfall and ultimately convert sales.

How can shopping centres deliver services and needs without leaving the traditional British high street in the lurch?

Shopping centres are part of the high street. The Broadway is located right in the heart of Bradford city centre. We’re home to both multiple and independent retailers, both working together in harmony.

It’s this collective working across the UK in towns and cities that will keep the retail industry flourishing in this country. In order to stand toe to toe with e-commerce, city centres as a whole must be ready for business outside of the regular 9-5 day; cinemas, theatres, shopping centres, the high street need to trade longer hours to meet consumer demand.

In order to achieve this, backing initiatives such as the Bradford Business Improvement District (BID) will release much needed funding into leisure establishments and businesses. This will truly regenerate city centres.

How is Broadway addressing some of the challenges facing the UK retail industry as a whole?

We’re adapting our approach. We must be more than a shopping centre to give customers reasons to stay longer and spend their money. We’re evolving towards being a leisure destination, and to do that we’re working really closely with Bradford City Council and the likes of Bradford Alhambra and the Science and Media Museum to create “destination Bradford”. By standing and working together, we’ll be stronger and really transform the city of Bradford.

What would you say is the biggest risk for the UK retail sector, given the current climate?

The biggest risk to retail is complacency and teams resting on their laurels. Complacency is a very dangerous thing.

Cities such as Liverpool and Leeds have evolved with the changing market and are flourishing. Bradford is on the track to follow suit with exciting plans coming to fruition such as City Park, St Georges Hall and the upcoming NEC and Odeon complex transformation – there is so much enthusiasm in Bradford City Centre.

Describe your role and responsibilities as general manager of The Broadway.

I look after a 6000,000sq ft site and oversee the operations team. I’m in charge of the day-to-day running of the centre and am responsible for the safety of more than 200,000 customers who walk through the doors of the centre each week. I drive the strategic direction of The Broadway and how we move forward with the council.

I’m also the Chairman of the Bradford BID, which is a business-led and business funded body formed to improve a defined commercial area. The proposed Business Improvement District aims to give Bradford businesses a direct say in the city’s future and to benefit from a £2.5 million investment in key projects in Bradford.

This BID has been designed to create a vibrant city centre that attracts increased footfall from both residents and visitors to the city so that all our businesses flourish and prosper. The BID ballot commences on September 13, when the voting papers are issued by Electoral Reform Services, and ends on October 11.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

I have more than 30 years’ experience in the retail sector, beginning with Marks & Spencer and Safeway. After managing Stafford Centre in East London since 2008, I became centre director at St John’s Shopping Centre, Liverpool in 2010.

In 2016, I became General Manager of The Broadway, Bradford. The £260 million development opened just months before I arrived, and I’ve worked hard to cement its position as the heart and soul of Bradford ever since. I truly recognise the centre’s key role in its community and I looked to assist developments across Bradford through other organisations. As the chair of the Bradford BID Development Group, and a member of Bradford Breakthrough, I have worked with many stakeholders to put forth ideas on how to build a sustainable and better future for the city.

What got you into retail (or retail property) in the first place?

My very early days of working as baker in 1985 gave me the retail bug. I understand what consumers want and deliver what they need. I enjoy the reward of seeing The Broadway smash year on year footfall figures and signing up new and exciting retailers.

How has your previous experience aided your current job?

All of my previous jobs have played a part in aiding my current job, from the early starts as a baker, to working my way up through the ranks at Marks & Spenser’s and Safeway.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Without hesitation, it has to be the M62 every morning. I live in Bolton and take a very beautiful, but often eventful drive to Bradford and back each day.

And the most rewarding?

Again without hesitation, it has to be seeing Bradford evolve. The city has come so far in the past few years and the plans into 2020 will really transform the city into a leisure destination with multiple partners working together to build a bright and successful future.

What advice would you give someone who is considering embarking on a career in retail (or retail property)?

I do actually give this advice regularly as an enterprise advisor at schools across Bradford.

Retail isn’t an obvious industry for people to go into and young people often don’t see the potential of a career in this field. However, hard work, a keen interest in external factors that direct effect retail and a positive outlook are all brilliant core skills for a successful career in retail.

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