The Boulevard, Banbridge, Northern Ireland’s premier outlet shopping centre, is enjoying a resurgence following an initial £7m investment in 2017.
The work, instigated by current owners Tristan Capital Partners and Lotus Property included extensive investment in its physical environment and leasing activity and a major rebrand to create a new customer experience. A team of specialists, including turnerbates Design & Architecture, marketing agency BWP, TSA Planning, leasing experts Johnstone Property Consultants and KLM were recruited to oversee the project.
Since its completion, the alterations have led to significant success. In the past year, footfall has increased by 29.8%, with a 13.3% increase in turnover and a 4.7% growth in density. Halloween events and half term in October brought 31% more turnover than last year. What’s more, in December The Boulevard was successful at the REVO Gold Awards 2018.
The design process started in mid-2016 with turnerbates Design & Architecture following their successful pitch, who developed initial ideas with ETFE specialists and manufacturers, Vector Foiltec, as well as the rebrand with BWP.
A masterplan was developed to enhance the sense of arrival on site, to include improved landscaping, outward-facing signage and new gateway signage. A number of canopies were put over the mall to create a more pleasant experience, encouraging longer dwell times and ultimately turnover, which has been seen in the record turnover and footfall over the last year.
The state-of-the-art, illuminated roof was completed in September 2017 – the first ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) roof in Northern Ireland. The seven canopies maintain a naturally lit environment, accommodate the typical acoustics within the centre, and have also enabled temporary seating zones to be created, providing a relaxing and green space for visitors.
Another key objective of the scheme was diversifying the offer for visitors, including the expansion of the retailer offering, such as newest additions Jack Wills and Guess. A dedicated food and film quarter with an 8-screen cinema has also been created, along with a new visitor centre to enhance the customer experience.
In March 2018, The Boulevard rebranded from The Outlet. The new brand was created to reflect the centre’s positioning as the perfect alternative to shopping in the city, with convenient transport links between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Alastair Coulson, Managing Director for Lotus Property commented:
“Lotus is thrilled with the success of the rebrand of The Boulevard. The positive consumer response to the last few months of changing activity on site speaks for itself. The new, stylish brand identity has been developed to attract footfall from further afield, capitalise on the popularity of outlet shopping in Northern Ireland and cross border traffic as the Euro grows stronger.
“The Boulevard’s brand proposition emphasises the best elements of the metropolitan shopping experience attracting new customers and new retail partners. We are extremely encouraged that more positive development and investment is to come in 2019.”
Lotus Property provides successful, proactive, professional property and development management solutions for investors and property owners across a diverse portfolio of land and property assets in retail, leisure, healthcare and residential sectors.
Tristan Capital is an independent London-based real estate investment management boutique that is regarded as one of the leaders in the European marketplace.
turnerbates Design & Architecture Q&A
John Turner and Howard Bates founded turnerbates 6 years ago; building on some 25 years of experience working at various highly regarded and award winning architectural practices. Located close to London Bridge, the studio is home to an expanding dynamic and creative team.
The practice works on a diverse range of projects, both home and abroad – from strategic master planning to the delivery of projects in the hospitality, retail, workplace, heritage and mixed use sectors, with large private and public clients and small up and coming organisations.
One such project was The Boulevard, with turnerbates playing a central role in the destination’s makeover. The Re:fresh REVO Gold Award 2018 is reward for a design that has transformed The Boulevard and led to significant customer growth.
Just before the award ceremony, Premier Retail sat down with John Turner to find out a little more about the project and the award nomination.
What was your involvement with The Boulevard?
“The Boulevard was a reasonably new building that had lost its way in some respects. We won a pitch and got involved in adapting the masterplan, installing roof canopies to make it a more exciting environment that people want to spend time in.”
How important is it to look ahead to future trends with a project such as this?
“We’re involved in a lot of what are still being called shopping centres but they are no longer just places to shop. People want experiences, they want events and they want a day out. We are doing a lot of what we call reimagining at quite a few shopping centres around the country. As we say to clients, we have to create something that is flexible for whatever is around the corner. There’s a lot of doom and gloom on the high street but actually I think there are lots of positive stories out there.
“I think there are lot of opportunities with older shopping centres or centres that were designed for a different time. The days of the large anchor department store have gone but those units can become a variety of other amazing spaces, for example markets, food halls, event and cultural spaces.”
The Boulevard was recently nominated for a Re:fresh REVO Gold Award 2018. How did you find out?
“We’re part of the REVO community and most of our clients are involved with it. We were at the annual conference in Manchester earlier this year.
We had a call from Lotus Property Group asking if we were happy for them to put our name forward for the competition, which of course we were. Then we had a phone call that we’d been shortlisted, which was fantastic news.
“It’s up against a lot of good work but I think it warrants it. The Boulevard wasn’t broken, it just needed tweaking – a reimagining and a rebranding.”
And personally, what does mean to yourself and the practice to be nominated?
“I am very proud of it. We were very passionate about what we were proposing and some of those things came from our experiences on projects elsewhere. There were some challenges – building regulations and convincing statutory bodies that what we were proposing was compliant. But a lot of experience was brought to the table and we were always confident that it would work.
“It means a lot and shows what we’re able to do as a growing practice.”