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Cracking creation

Published:  01 February, 2007

With only weeks to go until its Easter opening, GML Estates and Land Securities are putting the finishing touches to The Outlet, their 205,000 sq ft mall at Bridgewater Park in Banbridge, Co Down.

Fitting-out work is well under way on the individual units and the centre is set to open about 80 per cent let. The scheme consists of a curved mall of 80 units, a third of a mile long. According to GML's commercial director Jo Skilton, the design will draw shoppers along the mall, with a new attraction always just in sight.

The main anchors positioned at either end of the mall are Marks & Spencer at one end and Gap, ex-Z and Nike at the other. And Armani stockist Designer Studio has taken a very prominent unit at the centre of the mall.

Other retailers committed by the end of January included Sanderson, Regatta, Chapelle Jewellery, Ravel, Mexx, Puma, Oasis, Joseph, Ghost, Whittard Of Chelsea, Julian Graves, Mountain Warehouse, Claire's Accessories, Tog 24, Toyworld, Banana Bookshop, Pavers Shoes, Daniel Footwear, Olsen, Nitya, Designer Room, Pilot and Sunglass Time.

Three access points from the 1,800 car parking spaces feed shoppers in from the ends of the mall and at the centre, where the core catering offer of Costa Coffee and Starbucks is also located.

In addition, M&S is planning to operate a Café Revive within its store and talks are under way with one of Northern Ireland's top restaurateurs to take a unit at the opposite end of the mall. Other catering units have gone to Burger King and Subway.

But even as the shopfitters are hard at work, letting agents Markham Vaughan Gillingham and DTZ McCombe Pierce are still signing more deals. In the latest letting, fashion brand Replay has selected The Outlet for its first and only outlet store in the UK and Ireland, taking a 2,424 sq ft unit.

Skilton says the deal "highlights the confidence international retailers have in the scheme, its location and the strong retail market in Ireland.

"This signing helps us further establish our aim to underline the centre as the unrivalled, premier fashion outlet in Ireland," she adds.

As construction at The Outlet draws to a close, the emphasis is shifting towards operational matters, and the man with day-to-day responsibility for the centre is Noel Magill. His retail credentials are impeccable having started at the Burton Group and then spent the past 17 years at Mexx, where he grew a 28-strong chain across the UK.

But after nine years of commuting across the Irish Sea, he's relieved to be back home. "To have my feet back on my own soil is great," he admits.

And he's not daunted by the change in career. "This is the opportunity of a lifetime," he says. "It will make me more rounded."

In fact, he's already seeing a lot of synergies between outlet management and fashion retail. "Outlets are all about brands," he explains. "If you've got the brands, and if you've got the location, you'll succeed."

Already, the developers are turning attention to further phases of the 100-acre Bridgewater Park site. The second phase will include a 430,571 sq ft retail park, which already has planning permission, 2,000 more parking spaces to serve the retail site, a 60-bedroom hotel, drive-thru restaurant and petrol filling station, bringing the completed investment value to more than £200m.

Once completed, Bridgewater Park will total more than one million sq ft of built area. In addition to retail and leisure, it has full planning permission for more than 50,000 sq ft of business accommodation, which will be retained by Stoney Properties to be developed to occupiers' requirements in the future.