5 Minutes With Deborah Jones, Centre Director, The Mall at Cribbs Causeway

The Mall at Cribbs Causeway centre manager Deborah Jones recently relaunched the South West shopping centre's marketing strategy and enacted a number of changes to its calendar of events to help drive footfall. Retail Gazette caught up with her to find our what they are.

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Deborah Jones Centre Director The Mall Cribbs Causeway profile
Deborah Jones has had extensive retail experience both in the UK and in Australia.

Tell me about The Mall’s story.

The Mall first opened its doors in 1998. It is owned by three separate owners – JT Baylis, M&G and Intu. It was much anticipated and quickly became a favourite with both the local community and visitors due to its position near the M4 and M5 interchange. With 1.4m sq ft of retail and leisure space – including big names like John Lewis, M&S and Apple – and an annual footfall of 13 million, it is regarded as a major retail destination in the South West.

How is The Mall different to other centres in the South West?

Thanks to its central location, it serves both local and national customers and provides a regional hub for UK and international retailers. It is a “day out” destination with its range of shops and eateries, and our programme of events – such as Bristol Fashion Week and Winter Wonderland. It complements the city centre retail destinations in Bristol, Bath and Cardiff.

Deborah Jones Centre Director The Mall Cribbs Causeway profile
The Mall at Cribbs Causeway is regarded as a major retail destination for the South West.

What gap in the UK retail market does The Mall strive to address?

Contributing to the local economy has always been one of our key objectives. We’re really proud to play our part within the local community – it helps us link ever closer to our shoppers.

The Mall has raised tens of thousands of pounds for local organisations and charities since it opened, as well as subsidising employee travel in the area, investing in car sharing schemes and employing a range of local suppliers on a long-term basis.

As one of the largest shopping centres and a major employer in the South West, we consider it our responsibility to support the local community, which supports us in turn.

Can you tell me a little bit about The Mall’s marketing strategy that you recently relaunched?

Going to shopping centres is no longer just about browsing shops. Customers want a full day’s offering of engaging activities that allows them to enjoy a rich variety of dining experiences, entertainment and a great selection of the best national and international retail stores.

Our approach ensures The Mall responds to changing consumer behaviour. For example, we’re always looking at ways of evolving our successful Winter Wonderland event over Christmas to make it even more engaging and exciting for shoppers.

This Christmas, our Winter Wonderland has doubled in size and will include something the whole family can enjoy. It incorporates the second largest ice rink in the UK as well as the largest ice track. There is also a Santa’s enchanted ice castle and Toddlers on Ice affordable skates on weekday mornings to offer parents and children quality family time. There is a real feeling of magic for children and families, and for adults wanting to enjoy a festive drink, we have a brand-new Tipi bar.

Deborah Jones Centre Director The Mall Cribbs Causeway profile
The Mall at Cribbs Causeway puts on one of the biggest ice rinks in the UK during Christmas season.

What’s in store for The Mall in 2020?

We are continuing to work with new retailers and with partners across the area, to keep things vibrant and exciting for the millions of visitors from our extensive catchment and ensure they have many reasons to keep coming back. When The Mall was built, it promised to bring the best in national and international retail to the South West and more than 20 years on, we want to continue to deliver on that promise for generations to come.

How is The Mall addressing some of the challenges facing the wider retail industry?

“Going to shopping centres is no longer just about browsing shops”

It’s no secret consumer trends continue to change. Click-and-collect is now a wholly normal element of the retail business model for most brands, for example. Our focus is not just responding to change but pre-empting and preparing for what will come next. With major brands like Tesla making The Mall a base for their business, longstanding tie-ups with charity partnerships like Gromit Unleashed, and events and entertainment forming a greater part of the offer of the centre, we curate an overarching leisure experience – not just a shopping centre.

The team at The Mall also wants to provide the best day out for customers, along with high levels of customer service and care. It is important we listen and take care of our customer base as well as considering ways to attract more people. We want to stay relevant to our customers by considering our retail and food and beverage mix carefully.

What would you say is the biggest risk for the retail industry right now?

There is no one new threat, but the challenge that I’ve already outlined is about ensuring we are doing more than just providing a great place to shop. We should always be responding to changing consumer behaviour and trends.

Describe your role and responsibilities.

“Our focus is not just responding to change but pre-empting and preparing for what will come next

I oversee the operational responsibilities, which include compliance, finance, environmental issues, security and marketing. Analysing and learning from the centre’s performance is also a key part of my role and it is essential I work closely with our asset management team.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background beforehand.

Prior to working at The Mall, I was a retail operations director for Landsec in London and was responsible for many large centres across the country. Prior to that, I worked for Westfield in Stratford, another large shopping centre. I was also based in Sydney for several years before returning to the UK.

Would say Australian shopping centres are different to the UK’s? 

Shopping centres respond to the needs of their catchment and their environment. The challenge for any shopping centre owner or manager is in knowing their customer and providing the right retail, dining and leisure mix to meet demand – this is not a concept that is country-specific.

What got you into retail in the first place?

I started my career working for Exeter City Council as an economic development officer. I really enjoyed the challenge but always wanted to work in the private sector, which I believed would afford me greater opportunities to make a difference.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Retail has changed and it is important to remain relevant to our customers. We need to be agile, pacey, and sometimes brave in decision-making.

And the most rewarding?

Without doubt the most rewarding is working with such a great team who care so much about the business and our customers.

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