Sorbon Estates appoints Activate to enliven
Waterside Quarter

Activate has been instructed by Sorbon Estates to develop both Destination Marketing and Placemaking strategies for Waterside Quarter, a new mixed-use development in Maidenhead.

The appointment, led by Esther Worboys, Placemaking Manager, and Megan Bywater, Digital Marketing & Events Executive, will see the Activate team implement a fully integrated marketing and stakeholder engagement strategy for the new restaurant, retail, and leisure district.

Esther Worboys said: “We are delighted to collaborate with Sorbon Estates and Shanly Homes to develop a marketing strategy that positions Waterside Quarter as a retail and leisure destination which appeals to local residents, potential tenants, and draws in visitors from a wider catchment area.”

Waterside Quarter, which already plays host to restaurant destination Bardo Lounge and a state-of the-art F45 Fitness Studio, is set to benefit from the Activate team’s wider enlivenment experience. Their first task will be to establish engaging digital channels and a vibrant seasonal events programme, in order to raise awareness and drive footfall.

Activate will also work closely with on-site occupiers, local businesses, community organisations and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead to create a holistic programme that positions Waterside Quarter as a dynamic and lively place to live and visit, whilst also enriching Maidenhead town centre. The town offers connections to London Paddington in 19 minutes, and easy access to some of Berkshire’s best beauty spots.

residential apartments at waterside Quarter in Maidenhead
Activate has been instructed by Sorbon Estates to develop both Destination Marketing and Placemaking strategies for Waterside Quarter, a new mixed-use development in Maidenhead.

Activate has been awarded town centre redevelopment consultancy and feasibility instructions for placemaking by three new Local Authorities in the past month.

The inclusion of the Activate team on each of the three projects means their expertise will be harnessed to maximise use of government funding, where it has been allocated, either through a Town Deal or via the Future High Streets Fund.

In each case, the Activate team’s unique insight will add value and provide input into the regeneration and enlivenment of a market, as integral components of wider town redevelopment strategies.

Activate will focus on improving the integration of the three markets within their respective towns, including consideration of public realm, sight lines into the markets, and engagement with stallholders to ensure that their views and needs are incorporated into the new schemes.

Competitive benchmarking will also take place, where the Activate team will assess other markets in the area, along with other retail and leisure opportunities, in order to analyse ways in which the rejuvenated markets can each become more commercially viable and attract more footfall. Findings will be compiled into a bespoke business plan for each individual market, before regeneration work begins.

Tapping into Workman’s ESG expertise

As part of Workman, the Activate team is also able to draw on capabilities within the wider business, for example experts from our Building Consultancy and Computer Aided Design teams get involved in the feasibility and design stages.

These three market projects will also tap into the expertise of the Workman ESG team, which is delivering Energy Audits of the existing markets, along with Social Value Audits, to assess the community benefits and what markets could bring to the local area. This involves examining market supply chains, as well as gathering the views of local faith groups, the police, and schools to discover their perceptions of the market.

Esther Worboys, Placemaking Manager at Activate, and Expert for the High Streets Task Force, said: “Well-designed and located markets can deliver social value in many ways. They not only provide social spaces in terms of community seating areas and meeting places, but can support the local economy, from farm to table. Both in terms of supporting local suppliers, and acting as an incubator for entrepreneurial start-ups, markets are known to strengthen local supply chains. This often encourages healthier eating too. And with design improvements to attract more people, markets provide natural surveillance, which can also reduce crime and antisocial behaviour.”

The inclusion of the Activate team on each of the three projects means their expertise will be harnessed to optimise use of government funding, where it has been allocated, either through a Town Deal or via the Future High Streets Fund.

Want to know more?

Read more about Activate, which offers specialist placemaking and destination marketing services to regenerate, repurpose and enliven assets.   

Read more about Workman’s ESG expertise

Read more about Workman’s Building Consultancy team

Months of successive national lockdowns provided consumers with the rare opportunity to accumulate high levels of savings (reaching nearly £75bn in Q1 2021, according to Statista). The ensuing summer of revenge spending brought customers back to shopping in their town centres. Now that summer is over, and with Christmas campaigns beginning against a media backdrop of inflation fears and predictions of shortages, our sector is preparing itself for the challenges of the coming months, writes Nick Hilton, Partner, Retail & Leisure, in Retail Destination magazine.

During the height of the pandemic, destination marketing quickly pivoted to digital-only strategies to maintain connections with customers and help retailers embrace click & collect, many for the first time. Digital campaigns built around creative content, seasonal interest and brand partnerships successfully helped build engagement, to the extent that for some centres, Facebook engagement increased by as much as 65% and website users by as much as 120%.

Digital gains translate to footfall growth

As locations began to reopen, destination marketing strategies evolved to incorporate hybrid physical and digital enlivenment. Average organic social media growth is at 44% per scheme so far in 2021, and website traffic for our schemes has generated more than two million visitors. These gains made in building digital communities has proven beneficial during re-openings, translating into real measurable footfall gains.

At one Leamington Spa centre, online content promoting a summer “Beats & Eats” event featuring live music on a small stage secured online engagement of more than 30%, which translated into footfall increases of 9% week on week. Results like these prove that strong online followings are a powerful tool in creating intent to visit physical destinations, especially important for reaching customers now accustomed to online shopping, or those still apprehensive of physical shopping.

Building on the continued trend of domestic tourism, creative events delivered in collaboration with the wider town centre or with retailers themselves added value to the customer experience. Response to these events is going from strength to strength, especially those such as “Walkden Into Space” which featured rocket, astronaut and alien statues, offering a socially-distanced selfie opportunity designed to drive footfall, while remaining cautious around physical contact.

Unique and engaging family activities during school holidays and weekends; alongside ticketed events that build consumer confidence via demonstrable safety measures, have performed particularly well. For example, for Halloween a ticketed escape room event for which participants stayed in their own groups, booked online, was organised alongside the usual pumpkin design and carving activities.

Tailor destination marketing to community need

Stronger digital communities also enabled centre teams to use their platforms to integrate communications plans with on-site management, ensuring customers were aware of restrictions and guidelines ahead of their visit, to manage expectations, provide clarity, and build confidence.

Balancing safety and wellbeing with customer entertainment and experience came to the fore during the remobilisation of retail. This meant adapting the marketing approach to reflect evolving operational requirements and budgets, while supporting brands, increasing footfall, and animating the retail environment.

With different regions experiencing varying levels of confidence amid continued uncertainty, this requires tailored marketing campaigns that respect local sentiment and reflect community needs. One centre felt confident enough to re-introduce workshop-based Halloween activities, while another has opted for a more cautious socially distanced outdoor approach featuring street theatre and stilt-walkers.

Digital-led marketing strategies have helped destinations retain customer interest, loyalty and engagement during the lockdowns and phased re-openings of the past 18 months. The Activate team, which produces more than 3000 pieces of digital content every month, has seen the value of quality and creativity in both digital and physical platforms. This joined up approach has kept destinations top of mind, building confidence, driving engagement, and reigniting loyalty among consumers.

To sustain the gains of summer into the Christmas shopping season and beyond, it is vital to leverage destination marketing in order to add value to the customer experience, and help local communities build confidence in their retail destinations.

By Nick Hilton, Partner, Retail & Leisure, Workman

A version of this article originally appeared in Retail Destination magazine

To find out more about the Activate Destination Marketing Service visit > https://bit.ly/3DhY11s

If you have a retail scheme, office campus or business park where the marketing needs to work harder, contact either Michelle Atack or Andrew Sparrow.

Say hello to Michelle Atack, Destination Marketing Manager within the Activate Destination Marketing team. Here she shares her love of retail, and how she thinks the pandemic has changed the world of destination marketing…

Q: What three words describe Activate?

A: Personal, innovative, creative.

Q: What has been your standout moment at Activate so far?

A: Working for one of our larger management clients where we’ve been able to demonstrate fast results and win more of their accounts on the back of our proven success. The growth of the business and the team in such short space of time and the response from our clients has been extremely rewarding.

Q: Tell us about a time you’ve put your skills to their best use on an Activate destination marketing campaign?

A: Communication is king. We prioritise communication and interpersonal skills to ensure our clients are happy and reassured with the delivery of integrated campaigns while seeing positive results – even during the unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic.

Q: Tell us about a time you’ve felt most challenged while working at Activate, and how you overcame that challenge?

A: The pandemic raised lots of challenges, having to think both reactively and proactively to deliver alternative activation across our schemes.

Q: In what ways do you think the pandemic has permanently impacted destination marketing?

A: Retailers are more eager to promote their brands and destinations due to the loss of footfall in lockdown periods, and their anxiety around consumers shopping online is apparent. Budgets have also been slashed; marketing can often be one of the first costs to be cut, but in a time of crisis the biggest brands know it’s usually wise to maintain or even increase marketing spend.

Q: What change would you make to a single aspect of the property sector and why?

A: Introduce drive-thru click and collect pods, or use void space for this purpose only, this would still increase visitors to sites rather than waiting at home for Amazon deliveries.

Q: What are your spare time pursuits and how do they influence your role at Activate?

A: Shopping, socialising and family time. I always like to have my end-user hat on when planning campaigns, which helps being an avid shopper with high expectations. I also take stock from my children, family, and friends about their requirements in a retail world.

Q: What is your favourite building / retail experience worldwide, and why?

A: The Dubai Mall – it is vibrant, fun, caters for everything and leads the way in retail for me. It’s enlivenment at its best.

Q: What book or podcast do you recommend, and why?

A: The Universe Has Your Back, by Gabrielle Bernstein. I am a relatively spiritual person and I believe we all have a positive life journey ahead – it just takes belief, so trust the process.

To find out more about the Activate Destination Marketing Service visit > https://bit.ly/3DhY11s

If you have a retail scheme, office campus or business park where the marketing needs to work harder, contact either Michelle Atack or Andrew Sparrow.

Despite lockdown and the intermittent opening and closing of retail, 2021 has seen our Activate Destination Marketing team grow rapidly.
 
As this infographic shows, the team is now engaging with local communities and driving footfall at more than 20 retail and leisure schemes across the country, while also taking their skills into other commercial locations.

Growing Destination Marketing in 2021
4 million sq.ft managed retail and leisure space
Managing over half a million pound marketing spend
20+ new instructions in 2021
Average organic social media growth at 44% per scheem so far in 2021
Website traffic generated in excess of 2 million visitors
3000+ pieces of digital content created and published every month
Our destination marketing services
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If you have a retail scheme, office campus or business park where the marketing needs to work harder, contact either Michelle Atack or Andrew Sparrow.

Here we meet Leonie Kirkham, Digital Marketing and Events Executive within the Activate Destination Marketing team, as she answers questions about her career and approach to destination marketing…

Q: What three words describe Activate?

A: Pioneering, bold, innovative.

Q: What has been your standout moment at Activate so far?

A: Working with new accounts to support local activity and tap into key events to help boost footfall and attendance to events. It has been great to work with local social accounts to coordinate marketing online.

Q: Tell us about a time you’ve put your skills to their best use on an Activate destination marketing campaign?

A: Assisting with building copy for online marketing campaigns such as our “Be Half Term Happy” campaign. Ensuring a variety of approaches are taken to tap into key and relevant audiences to create optimum impact for our clients.

Q: Tell us about a time you’ve felt most challenged while working at Activate, and how you overcame that challenge?

A: Co-ordinating deliveries for events onsite where there were difficulties with the delivery company locating the recipient. We overcame this by working with local tenants to find a place for the product to be delivered in time for the event to go ahead.

Q: In what ways do you think the pandemic has permanently impacted destination marketing?

A: I think it has made people more cautious and led to uncertainty in the marketing sector, with some reluctant to launch back into the same kind of activity used pre-pandemic, as they are unsure of what restrictions may arise in the future.

Q: What are your spare time pursuits and how do they influence your role at Activate?

A: Exploring the outdoors and attending family events! Keeps me up to date with popular themes and allows me to experience things that work well.

Q: What is your favourite retail experience worldwide, and why?

A: The First Mall inside the Four Seasons Hotel in Cairo. It’s a beautiful timeless building with indulgent brands. Having the hotel attached brings with it added benefits and creates a full experience.

Q: What book or podcast do you recommend, and why?

A: The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. These were responsible for getting me into reading, so always worth a reference. Also Selling War and Peace by Jack Holland keeps me rooted in my love for political science.

To find out more about the Activate Destination Marketing Service visit > https://bit.ly/3DhY11s

If you have a retail scheme, office campus or business park where the marketing needs to work harder, contact either Michelle Atack or Andrew Sparrow.

Introducing Megan Bywater, Digital Marketing and Events Executive within the Activate Destination Marketing team. Here, Megan shares her perspective on changing consumer behaviour, and the value of new technology to create post-pandemic retail experiences…

What three words describe your approach to delivering client projects?

Communication, problem-solving, and teamwork.

What has been your standout career moment so far?

Overcoming the challenges of the pandemic in my previous role. The crisis allowed us to reassess ways of working, streamline communication and become more flexible internally. Like most, we did this completely remotely and with limited resources due to redundancies. Through all the issues faced, we managed to almost double the previous year’s revenue and output in terms of project delivery, and form an even deeper relationships with our clients. 

Tell us about a time you’ve felt most challenged, and how you overcame that challenge? 

2020 was a challenging year for everyone, in lots of different ways. Personally, my biggest challenge was the transition to working from home indefinitely. We had a really close-knit team that valued collaboration, and I was an active member of the social committee, so ensuring everyone still felt as part of the team was a top priority. We overcame the challenge by ensuring we had regular catch ups and team meetings, and focused on communication, integrity and honesty. We came out of the pandemic with even closer relationships. 

In what ways do you think the pandemic has permanently impacted destination marketing?

The shift in consumer behaviour towards purchasing goods online has been accelerated. In order to get consumers engaged and encouraged to get back on the high street, marketers must focus on seamless shopper journeys by creating an experience that goes above and beyond. 

What are your spare time pursuits and how will they influence your role at Activate?

I like to go for walks and get out to the countryside. This helps my role at Activate as it allows me to visit new towns and villages that I can take inspiration from. 

What is your favourite retail experience worldwide, and why?

It’s the make-up brand Charlotte Tilbury, which has “magic mirrors” in their flagship store that allow you digitally try on the brand’s signature looks. This is a great way to enhance store experiences and use technology to progress from the usual tester pots. Zara have recently worked with a digital artist to create a digital art installation for their window displays: a great example of creating more of a destination.  

What book or podcast do you recommend, and why?

My favourite podcast is ‘Today in Focus’ by The Guardian. It gives insights and analysis of the current news headlines, in a really clear and concise way that’s easy to understand. 

To find out more about the Activate Destination Marketing Service visit > https://bit.ly/3DhY11s

If you have a retail scheme, office campus or business park where the marketing needs to work harder, contact either Michelle Atack or Andrew Sparrow.

Having worked in the property sector for more than 15 years, Jennifer Hazlehurst, Marketing and Events Coordinator within the Activate Destination Marketing team, explains how she applies creative thinking to get the best results from clients’ destination marketing campaigns.

Q: What three words describe Activate?

A: Refreshing, energetic, collaborative.

Q: What has been your standout moment at Activate so far?

A: Activate has allowed me to develop and utilise my creative skills, finally using that A-Level in Art & Design. One of my standout moments was first seeing my creative designs come to life on both social media and websites, and following the social media engagement they allowed us to generate for our clients.

Q: Tell us about a time you’ve put your skills to their best use on an Activate destination marketing campaign?

A: Earlier in the year, with restrictions in place, we ran a lot of online campaigns around calendar events. Producing digital designs for these allowed me to use my creative skills, with one online Valentine’s competition reaching more than 16 thousand people, generating 2300-plus engagements, and proving a great campaign highlighting the site and its offers.

Q: Tell us about a time you’ve felt most challenged while working at Activate, and how you overcame that challenge?  

A: Working on the destination marketing service from its launch has been exciting but trying to have that push in growing the business while also working from home, often alone with three children, has probably been my biggest challenge. A supportive and fantastic team, as well as seeing the great opportunity that was ahead of me, kept me focused to keep going and take one day at a time.

Q: In what ways do you think the pandemic has permanently impacted destination marketing?

A: The pandemic has focused marketers on achieving more with less. Following so many budgetary and physical restrictions, the pandemic has driven more innovation, seen in some brilliant digital campaigns over lockdown. Hopefully this will continue an increase in marketing campaigns that are unique and exciting, both in content and delivery.

Q: What change would you make to a single aspect of the property sector and why?

A: Having worked within the property sector for more than 15 years, there are various areas that could benefit from change. The business rates system is archaic and does no favours for either landlord or tenant. It is slow in revaluations, which then negate any savings, and has no accurate reflection on the current retail market.

Q: What are your spare time pursuits and how do they influence your role at Activate?

A: Three small children keep me busy with little real time for my own pursuits, but they do allow me to indulge my love of the outdoors and exercise by keeping them active. I love DIY and I am an avid reader. My children help develop my organisation skills (and help me stay calm in difficult situations) and I think my own pursuits encourage my innovative and creative side.

Q: What is your favourite building / retail experience worldwide, and why?

A: Having visited retail experiences as different as the mall in Dubai and the old markets in Budapest, I find it fascinating looking at how different and yet successful retail experiences can be. Whether it be an expansive, gleaming mall like Dubai’s or a crowded market steeped in history like Budapest, they can be equally emotive for such different reasons.

Q: What book or podcast do you recommend, and why?

A: As part of my degree, I studied a book called True Tales of American Life, which is a collection of stories written by people throughout America and edited by Paul Auster. It was one of the most moving books I’ve ever read. It made me laugh and cry, and showed a true insight into all aspects of human experience in an honest and refreshingly written text by everyday people.

To find out more about the Activate Destination Marketing Service visit > https://bit.ly/3DhY11s

If you have a retail scheme, office campus or business park where the marketing needs to work harder, contact either Michelle Atack or Andrew Sparrow.

Darlish is the latest occupier to maximise Activate’s ability to match occupiers with short-term void spaces at Workman-managed shopping centres.

The luxury ice cream maker has set up at the beautiful Christopher Place, St Albans, where they have taken a four-month summer lease of an otherwise void space.

With access to a large pedestrianised area outside the shop, customers can linger outside, creating a lively energy and buzz around the shop and in the centre, even with Covid restrictions in place.

Being a seasonal business, Darlish has a few key months in which to showcase its products. The store Christopher Place gives the brand an amazing amount of frontage, allowing an opportunity to play with interior design.

“Having a calm space to move around in has been fantastic,” Darlish reported. “Even with queues, which can get very long in summer, serving hundreds of ice creams is a breeze! Customers have even commented on how much they love the shop, thanks to Activate for making it possible.”

Darlish Ice Cream, served in two cups
Darlish: the latest occupier to maximise Activate’s ability to match occupiers with short-term void spaces at Workman-managed shopping centres

To find out more about the Activate Destination Marketing Service visit > https://bit.ly/3DhY11s

If you have a retail scheme, office campus or business park where the marketing needs to work harder, contact either Michelle Atack or Andrew Sparrow.

With footfall expected to rise, the need to regenerate, repurpose and enliven town centres is keenly felt by Local Authorities, commercial property owners and retailers, looking to capitalise on the projected resurgence, writes Esther Worboys, Activate Placemaking Manager and High Streets Task Force Expert.

Retail sales enjoyed a springtime resurgence, with growth in high street sales from April to June making it the best three months on record. Sales were up 28.4% from a year earlier and were 10.4% higher than in 2019, according to the British Retail Consortium, buoyed by June’s sunny weather, the Euro 2020 tournament and the vaccination programme.

PM Boris Johnson’s removal of restrictions on 19 July delivered a further boost to retail. And the latest forecast shows footfall in non-food retail stores will continue to strengthen over summer in the UK, reaching almost three quarters (74.5%) of its 2019 level in Q3 2021. The figures, from Ipsos Retail Traffic Index, show that recovery was strong over Q2.

The rapid rollout of vaccinations, steps that property managers and retailers have put in place to safeguard their customers and colleagues, a release of pent-up demand, and consumers spending household savings from the past year, have all contributed to retail rallying during April, May and into June, say Ipsos retail analysts.

Acknowledging that shoppers will continue to use both online and physical shopping channels, analysts highlighted the return of consumer appetite for shopping as a leisure activity. Dr Tim Denison, head of retail analytics and insight at Ipsos, said: “Consumer confidence continues to re-build, now standing at its highest level since the first lockdown, employment levels remain buoyant, and Britain is rediscovering its fondness for one of its most popular social pastimes.”

Now more than ever, the need to regenerate, repurpose and enliven town centres is keenly felt by Local Authorities, commercial property owners and retailers, as they look to capitalise on the projected resurgence towards in-person experiences including recreational shopping.

Local authorities are taking an active role in the repositioning of town centre environments, with collaboration between the public and private sector increasingly proving a force for positive change. The ultimate needs of town centre and high street users should inform thinking at the centre of planning, design, and management, and build positive relationships with local stakeholders. This creates a sense of belonging and establishes the location’s role in the community.

Activate expertise to rejuvenate public spaces and deliver footfall boost

Activate works closely with local authorities and public-private partnerships to provide placemaking consultancy advice as part of a variety of town regeneration projects. By researching the demographics of an area, engaging with stakeholders such as local businesses, residents’ groups, and with market traders, their evaluations form the basis of a target retail mix. The Activate team collaborates to provide potential layout and design of any future schemes, supported by financial projections.

Based on local research and insight, the Activate placemaking team provides concepts, feasibility advice, and detailed business planning for local authorities for their regeneration options. Typical projects include master-planning of town centre mixed-use schemes, the feasibility analysis of town centre market re-locations and concepts for the re-purposing of vacant commercial space.

The High Street Task Force expert view

Where there is scope for achieving unfulfilled potential in town centres and high streets, Activate is well-placed to offer key advice, drawing from the team’s broad experience, which includes insight gained through my role as a High Street Task Force expert.

In this role, High Street Task Force experts visit targeted town centres and high streets, where they work with community leaders to identify key issues hampering successful transformation, and ways to address these. Experts also consult with local authorities and stakeholders to help solve complex challenges, which may also include running workshops and brokering relationships within the local community.

The idea is to unlock the resource that already exists in the town, using a fresh perspective to break down barriers in order to implement the project, while also leveraging a wider base of skills and understanding garnered from experience on projects rolled out in towns across the country. It’s about facilitating efforts between stakeholders such as business leaders, the local authority and community groups; so they can overcome past hurdles to move forward and deliver their own local solutions that are right for their town.

Carefully created and managed partnerships, where lessons learned are used to create added value for town centres and high streets, can deliver social and economic outcomes, not just real estate development. As the Activate team demonstrates, when local government and the private sector work in collaboration, with guidance from placemaking experts, the results lead to places that people can be proud of.

Levelling-up towns across the regions

This contemporary approach to partnering is good for the economic and social vibrancy of towns, and plays into the government’s levelling-up agenda, which seeks to improve skills, create jobs, enhance townscapes, improve access to public services, and increase local decision-making responsibilities.

The Activate team is also collaborating with Scotland’s Towns Partnership, enabling Local Authorities to work in partnership with town centre property owners to access available funding, of which they may previously have been unaware. Making progress towards levelling up is about removing regional inequities and finding suitable pathways for everybody.

High street shoppers on a busy street in Glasgow summer 2018
High street shoppers on a busy street in Glasgow, summer 2018

Of course, simply agreeing a public-private partnership doesn’t guarantee a successful outcome. For these collaborations to work, they rely on strong leadership, a clear vision, quality and continuity of teams. There is a clear requirement for a bedrock of thorough research and preparation, and trust between partners.

It seems that significant challenges including the pandemic, Brexit and climate change have not stifled enthusiasm for town centre regeneration. The rise of localism proves that people want to feel safe in – and proud of – the places where they live, work, play, study, do business, and shop.

In fact, there is a growing appetite to bolster local infrastructure so that towns are resilient enough to withstand further economic, environmental, and social challenges that may be just over the horizon.

By Esther Worboys, Activate Placemaking Manager and High Streets Task Force Expert.