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Published:  21 November, 2011

At  1.4m sq ft, with a weekly footfall of 600,000, Manchester Arndale is one of the foremost retail destinations in the UK.

At  1.4m sq ft, with a weekly footfall of 600,000, Manchester Arndale is one of the foremost retail destinations in the UK. Being slap-bang in the middle of Manchester city centre with good transport links and a unique student market, the Arndale attracts Britain’s second highest footfall after the Bullring in Birmingham. “Over 37 million people walked through our doors in 2009 alone,” confirms centre director Glen Barkworth.

A scheme of this size and reputation poses a major challenge for the FM team. But the Arndale has gone from strength to strength with Interserve handling security, cleaning, customer services and waste management. “We’ve seen constant growth in both footfall and sales despite a rough economic climate,” says Barkworth.
Poignantly, it’s the attitude of the 200 Interserve staff that Barkworth prizes above skill. “Interserve does a great job at providing the processes so that everything runs smoothly, but I could train people up to manage customer services or cleaning facilities,” he begins. “What Interserve does is provide the right attitude.”
Tanya Buse, who leads a customer service team of 25, has worked in five other shopping centres but is most impressed by the approach at Manchester Arndale. “Our training involves learning about the Arndale’s past and how it has evolved, so it becomes more than just a workplace. All the staff work together like one big team,” she says. So if a security guard comes across litter on the floor, he’ll automatically clean up rather than considering it outside his job description.
Interrelations between the service teams on the floor are essential to the running of the centre, as is communication between Interserve staff and the Arndale’s 10,000 store staff. “We visit the retailers every week to have a look at their figures and deal with any problems they’re having,” continues Buse. “Around 80 per cent of our job is going in and speaking to retailers, as opposed to just the paying customers.”
According to Sanders, this marks a significant change in the approach to facilities management. In the past, customer service was focussed wholly on the shopper. “Now, the credit crunch has shown us that centres and retailers need to be in it together if we want to increase footfall and sales,” explains Interserve director Tony Sanders. He advocates total facilities management over single service deliveries: “A total solution creates excellent team spirit, so it’s ideal for shopping centres. Single service just isn’t the same.”
When it comes to the day-to-day running of Manchester Arndale, it’s fair to say every angle is covered. According to food court coordinator Sheila Fisher, the number of staff calls for careful planning. “Every member of staff logs into a PDA handset, which is uploaded daily with all the jobs that need doing throughout the centre. Everyone has their own set of tasks, and they swipe a bar code on the wall once each job is done.” And she adds that keeping a close eye on staff ensures every task is carried out to high standards. “If something isn’t done, a red light flashes on the system and I follow it up.”
New jobs can be logged as a when a hazard is spotted, such as spillages. “Flexibility is very important,” confirms Sanders. “We always ask ourselves, ‘Can we improve on what we’re doing?’ Of course we can, but what we focus on is how to improve. It’s a live process.”