With shops reopening across the country following the year long, on-off lockdowns due to Covid-19, we wanted to get the perspective from someone who works within the system of one of Leicester’s main attractions – The Highcross Shopping Centre.
Highcross Leicester, originally known as The Shires between 1991 and 2008, was renamed after this period by the developer Hammerson plc. This renaming came alongside their extension, leading to the centre impressively boasting over 100 shop spaces. But with all the changes we have faced in our shopping habits and being forced to stay at home, how have retail spaces and those that encompass these businesses handled this past year?
When asked about the changes in our shopping habits and its effect on the shopping centre, The General Manager of Highcross Leicester, Jo Tallack said: “Online shopping was always there. It just became a way of life during lockdown because you had no choice. If you wanted something you bought it online. But actually, I go back to that idea that ‘bricks and mortar’ is so important. You want to be able to see what you’re buying, you want to feel it, and you want that social engagement—you want to be able to ask questions rather that go onto a chat box on a website. And we saw the demand was there, and the need was there, on our first day of reopening. Yes, you could have bought that online, but actually you wanted the physical store [to purchase what you wanted].”
The challenges that the Highcross have faced has been in line with many other industries. Most notably the furlough scheme due to workers being asked to stay home. Luckily, even with the furlough, Jo didn’t lose a member of her team. “We did a restructure slightly earlier, where we looked at efficiencies and smart ways of working, but I have a really good, highly-skilled team behind me. I couldn’t do it—I couldn’t run the Highcross on my own. It’s all about my team. That goes for my retailers as well, you know? Having a good relationship with my retailers brings us all together. We are one—we call ourselves the Highcross family.”
Watch the full interview above to hear more about Jo’s experiences.
By Sam Ellison