Retail Destination
features Activate

Andrew Sparrow, Director of Placemaking at ActivateWorkman Placemaking, spoke to Tracy West at Retail Destination, for this feature about how his team of experts is making a difference in the retail space, and rapidly increasing effective enlivenment and destination marketing services within offices too.

Read examples of Activate’s work at chic retail destination St Christopher’s Place, London, as well as enlivenment at Grade II-listed, modernist office building, Smithson Plaza.

It’s all about expertise, says Andrew:

“Over the past four years, we’ve been able to build an expert team. We’ve got marketing people, we’ve got a lot of PR skills, we’ve got event management. We’ve got strategy and planning. It’s quite a broad church of experience, and on any project – whether it be a shopping centre or an office – we could take it from strategy, all the way through to delivery, and everything in between.”

Read the full feature below, or visit Retail Destination here.

Retail Destination interviews Andrew Sparrow, Director of Activate, Workman’s Placemaking team

For more information on Activate’s services, get in touch here:

Contact – Workman Activate (

How to make places that matter to people

With retail spaces sitting at the heart of our neighbourhoods, many developers, owners, and managers of retail property across the UK are now evolving their models to tap into the needs and interests of their own communities, in an effort to drive engagement and embed themselves into their local area, writes Emma Henson, Place Marketing Manager at Activate, Workman Placemaking.

Emma Henson, Place Marketing Manager

Shopping centre owners, including Hermes, Ellandi and New River, and their Workman onsite property management teams, are maximising opportunities to deliver services that both attract – and meet the needs of – local people.

By creating mixed-use destinations that meet community needs and aspirations, and by talking with and listening to local people, Activate’s Destination Marketing team brings places to life, helping buildings contribute to vibrant communities.

Family friendly: creating destinations for quality time

At Crystal Peaks shopping centre in Sheffield, Free Friday Family Fun Days were organised throughout the summer holidays in 2022; featuring free sessions to learn skateboarding and climbing, as well as inflatables and bouncy castles. More than 800 children and their families attended, creating a real buzz around the shopping centre and what it meant to local families.

This enlivenment was so successful that it evolved into the centre’s ongoing service: Game On family activities, where a vacant unit was converted into a free family game space including table tennis and football, chess, giant Jenga and Connect4 and other board games.

Centre owner Hermes funded the provision of the equipment, and the facility was opened in July for the summer holidays and then subsequently at weekends and holidays.

It has been hugely popular as a free way for families to spend quality time together, especially relevant during the cost-of-living crisis. The Workman centre management team has since liaised with local authority youth services team about using the space as a location for enhanced youth engagement in 2023.

Local movement: reaching out to schools and charities

Despite the threat of looming recession, many retail assets have increased their investment into social value in a bid to become part of the communities they serve, cementing themselves into the lives and minds of occupiers and consumers, not only by offering empty units to social schemes, focusing on local suppliers and employees, or creating new facilities for use by community groups, but also by reaching out to local schools and charities.

At New River’s Prospect Centre in Hull, the Workman onsite team worked with Parkstone Primary School to design flags for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in May 2022. The centre management team then returned to the school after judging the designs to advise on a winner from each age group and present prizes.

A local radio station attended on the presentation day to interview the winning children, and the local newspaper also showcased the work, which was exhibited in the shopping centre for people to view in the Prospect Gallery. This brought in many of the children and families involved, creating close ties with the local community and a halo effect for the centre.

How does Activate help retail schemes create social value?

Creating social value often involves using Placemaking, Destination Marketing and Enlivenment strategies to engage communities both within and around a development. When buildings support environmental, economic, and social wellbeing, they improve the quality of life of people using them by providing access to services and integration into the wider economy and society.

Across the Workman-managed portfolio, our Destination Marketing and Placemaking strategies are specifically designed to engage occupiers and visitors, to draw in the local community, and make buildings a part of the local community.

Social value creates a shared benefit for stakeholders from the private sector, public sector, and communities. Whether through the creation of local employment opportunities, the maximisation of commercial space, or the delivery of community programmes, the outcome should remain the same: positive social impact that creates change for good.

For more on Activate’s Placemaking and Destination Marketing services, contact Emma Henson, Place Marketing Manager

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 >

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.

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 >

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.

Our recent article Remobilising Retail Destinations , highlighted the value of destination marketing teams for retail assets. They have a crucial role to play, both promoting the customer experience and managing customer expectations of the social distancing measures that will inevitably be in place.

As part of an on-going growth in our destination marketing services for retail assets, we are delighted to have expanded our retail marketing team.

Michelle Atack joined the team as Digital Marketing and Events Associate. She will co-ordinate marketing activities for a growing number of shopping centres and retail parks across the country. Michelle has previously held Marketing Manager roles at Derwent Group and Cushman & Wakefield. In those roles she was responsible for schemes including Liverpool Shopping Park and Manchester Corn Exchange, managing digital marketing campaigns, media management and local community stakeholder engagement.

Welcoming Michelle to the team, Andrew Sparrow, Director of Placemaking said;

Now more than ever, marketing and communications has a vital role to play in driving footfall, encouraging customers to return to safe and welcoming retail environments, collaborating with retailers and local communities. We are seeing a real demand from investors to invest in promoting their schemes. Michelle’s appointment will add valuable expertise and experience in this area. We look forward to working together on a number of new instructions.

To find out more about the Activate Destination Marketing Service visit >

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.