UK high streets have been trying to reinvent themselves for some time. But now the coronavirus pandemic is changing the way we shop once again.
Castle Quay Shopping Centre sits at the heart of Banbury, North Oxfordshire. With over 80 stores including big name high street brands, cafes, restaurants and specialist independent stores.
We caught up with Oliver Wren, Centre Director, as part of our Banbury Inspires campaign to find out how the shopping centre has adapted throughout the lockdown and how its development plans are taking shape.
Tell us about your role and what daily life is like for you right now?
Busy! We have been focused on introducing measures within the centre to keep staff, retailers and customers safe. But we are enjoying welcoming familiar faces back to the centre.
My day-to-day operational role hasn’t changed. It continues to be about creating a friendly and welcoming environment for shoppers. Safety is massively important and I have been leading the centre team through all of the latest Government health guidelines and protocols.
How has Castle Quay adapted to serve its customers?
While we’ve put a long list of practical measures in place, we’ve also invested time in training and developing our team. Likewise, we’ve worked with retailers to help them throughout this process. Overall, this has helped to ensure customers feel supported during this challenging time.
What can people expect when they visit the shopping centre?
We are committed to making their experience safe yet enjoyable. You’ll find hand sanitizing stations, personal protection equipment (PPE) vending machines, enhanced cleaning regimes and increased signage in place. Read more about the measures we’ve put in place to reassure shoppers on our FAQs page. Our customer service team is also always happy to help and available to give information at the customer services desk.
How do you think people’s shopping habits have changed over the next few months?
Understandably consumers are a bit cautious at the moment. But it is pleasing to see shoppers gradually return to the centre. Weekly footfall numbers are on the up and we believe that this trend will continue over time, providing we maintain high standards of safety.
As lockdown restrictions continue to relax, retail spaces will need to adapt further to compete with online shopping. This lockdown has helped us all to appreciate the value of community and I think we’ll emerge from this with a new appreciation for social spaces.
What can retailers do to give people the confidence to return?
People still want great shopping environments, but the priority for all retailers has to be on shopper safety. This requires a certain amount of collaboration. We’ve worked closely with our retailers to help with their planning and queue management. Creating a safe environment sends a clear message to customers and helps to restore consumer confidence during this period of recovery.
What is your message to residents, shoppers and visitors of Banbury as we ease out of lockdown?
Everyone’s situation is different. We want people to know we are here. We are ready to welcome you back when you’re ready to shop.
Are you optimistic that as we emerge from this, it could be a chance to create a better Banbury?
Absolutely! It’s a very exciting time for Banbury with the arrival of Lock29 and Castle Quay Waterfront, which will really enhance the town centre’s existing offer and add an exciting focus on food and leisure.
Towns and high streets need to evolve. Cherwell District Council is very much focused on future-proofing the town centre. The way we use these spaces is changing. By playing to our strengths and offering something different, Banbury will become a more attractive destination for visitors and the increased footfall and spend will help boost our local economy.
How are plans for the Lock29 development coming along?
The build is on track for completion in a matter of weeks. We are now looking at phased, Covid compliant opening later this year. This canal-side destination will offer something different for the local community and visitors, and we cannot wait for this to become a reality!
You can keep up-to-date on Castle Quay development, including Lock29 by visiting our website www.castlequay.co.uk or following us on Twitter @shopcastlequay. For offers, competitions and event news, like our Facebook page.