Richard Baker: Better the more you look Intu it
A FEW weeks back, the people who own Broadmarsh and the Victoria Centre announced a rebrand.
We're going to spend £26 million nationally, they said. Brilliant. We're going to adopt a slick, new appearance, they said. Fabulous. We're going to call them both Intu!
Er, you're going to what?
At this point I could launch into a hilariously funny satire about the folly of corporate business talking a language no one understands, maybe mashing the new name up a bit to turn it into something really embarrassing.
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I could. But I'm not going to.
Now, I think most people might just do a double-take at the name. It's a pretty obvious way of being different (if there is such a thing), and everyone knows what you really want people to be thinking: "I'm going to go Intu Broadmarsh today! Hey – that new store has opened, I think we ought to go Intu Victoria Centre and take a look."
You get the picture. And that's the point. You DO get the picture. You also get something else, I hope. That rebranding one decrepit shopping centre and another that's beginning to look a bit weary around the edges is no bad thing.
Not without justification, we have been calling – nay, shouting from the rooftops – for someone to finally do the decent thing and spend some money bringing the two key centres in a shopping destination of national standing into an era at least vaguely related to the 21st century.
That is what rebranding these two centres amounts to. It isn't just a message to you and me, either. It's a message to the major shop chains that the Victoria Centre and Broadmarsh will conform to a recognisable national quality standard set by one of the biggest name in retail development (Capital Shopping Centres).
I think something else follows on from that. CSC will not be spending £26 million establishing a national retail brand only to see it dragged down by two centres which don't cut the mustard. So logic suggests they're going to do something about them.
Yes, that investment is sorely needed, but the fact that it's happening at all is something we should be grateful for.
Most towns and cities are not in receipt of huge retail investment. They're having to make do with what they've got. Only in London – an international city whose economy is on a different plane to ours – is it comparatively easy to throw millions at shopping.
That CSC is rebranding our two shopping centres and looking seriously at substantial multi-million investment in them tells you something which we'd do well to remember: our city is one of the biggest retail destinations outside London, and its shops bring an awful lot of jobs and money into the city.
In a downbeat economic climate it's easy to lose sight of that fact. When the economy is struggling we latch on to the bad news and the negative – the closures of well-known chains, the figures that tells us loads of shops are empty because no one's got any money and what they have got they're spending online.
There is SOME truth in SOME of those statements. None give you the full picture. How do you find out more? Go, er, Intu a shopping centre...