Tangible turnaround for Brunel Centre in Swindon

£400,000 Marketing Budget to increase rising footfall figures

Just over a year since Swindon’s Brunel Centre went into Receivership, the 550,000 sq ft shopping centre is starting to see a tangible turnaround. So much so, that Loan Servicers Solutus Advisors, acting for the CMBS noteholders, have now announced a £400,000 national, regional and local marketing campaign to promote The Centre as a destination for shoppers, the largest marketing budget that Brunel has ever enjoyed.

The move follows an active year for Brunel following December 2011 when eight retailers at the Centre went into receivership, leaving an empty shops total of 58,494 sq ft – an 11 per cent void – with a total of £598,000 in rent arrears accumulated over the previous three years.

In March of that year, Solutus appointed FI Real Estate Management (FIREM) as property managers to stabilise the situation and to plan a future management strategy for the Centre. In the Summer of last year they also took over the asset management of Brunel from CIT, the former owners.

By the year end, FIREM had reduced the void to 3.34 per cent and the rent arrears to nil through working with the retailers on repayment plans and letting agents McArthur Wilson and Capital Retail  to attract new lettings and to re-gear existing retail leases.

Footfall figures at Brunel have also risen by 100,000 between quarter 4 in 2011 and the same quarter in 2012. The new marketing campaign is expected to lift this further with the results showing themselves in Summer this year.

Major new retailer –The Fragrance Shop – is now trading in a 1,664 sq ft unit on a new ten year lease at 11 Canal Walk and  The Centre expects to confirm  a letting to another national brand retailer by the end of Quarter 1 this year to add to its retail attractions. The retailer is said to be considering a 2,500 sq ft unit. Loveday act for The Centre in Swindon with McArthur Wilson handling regional lettings and Capital Retail acting nationally.

Plans are also being considered for further enhancement of the Centre’s attractions which include alternative uses for The Arcade extension.

Local Swindon North MP Justin Tomlinson, who also serves on the all-Party town centre and retail parliamentary groups, is a keen supporter of Swindon’s retail revival.

He comments: “The confirmation of this welcome marketing push to help build on the impressive increase in town centre footfall is a real boost to both our local retailers and economy. These positive steps will help sustain and create new jobs and show potential new retailers that Swindon is very much open for business.”

James Bannister, MD of Solutus Advisors, who acts for the bond holders, adds:

“We are delighted with progress so far in turning Brunel’s fortunes around. FIREM have stabilised the basic operation of the Centre in terms of rent and service charge collection, tenant communication and relationships and we now have a real strategy in place to take the Centre forward with renewed activity and enthusiasm from  FIREM, the new Centre management team and our letting agents.

“We need to keep up this positive momentum as despite the continuing challenges for the retail market, we are seeing real progress at the Brunel Centre.”




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