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Published:  13 September, 2006

How much of the cost spent in many shopping centres can the centre manager really control?

Many shopping centres have high cost built into them, some with elaborate mechanical and electrical systems, many with floor finishes with looks that would grace a palace and maintenance costs that are a king's ransom.

The quantity and variety of light fittings makes you think they gave the designer a free hand with a large lighting catalogue. And that's before I start on the high-level glazing, feature clocks, water features etc.

In fact, if you had to design a complicated, over-elaborate and expensive-to-maintain building, you could do a lot worse than base your design on a shopping centre.

So who pays for all this? Well, of course, our retail partners or tenants. From their point of view it's a bit like going to a restaurant, only there is no menu and you will not know the cost until you have finished the meal.

So what is in it for our retail partners? An opportunity to have the space they require in the town they require; greater footfall of the right kind delivered to their door; and reduced occupancy costs as a percentage of turnover.

What we as managers need to do is to agree on how we deliver facilities and services, drawn up with the involvement of centre staff, managing surveyors, retail partners and centre owners.

The centre manager can then be measured on how he delivers, monitors and controls the services. This is the true measure of accountability. It is all too easy to drive down cost in the short-term only to have to pay a much higher price in the long-term.

Perhaps we will then see an end to clocks that don't work because of high maintenance costs and shopping centres where security staff are a regular feature and not some distant memory. But as someone once said, surveyors employ consultants to tell them the cost of anything and more consultants to tell them the value of nothing.

Mr Rees Hopper