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The White Rose in Leeds has put a lot of energy into community projects

White Rose Country

Published:  01 February, 2004

In its six years since opening, Land Securities’ White Rose shopping centre in Leeds has made quite an impression in its compact but loyal catchment area. And according to CACI, more money is spent at the centre each year (£309.6m) than in Grimsby (£306m).

Although the average customer travels just 17 minutes to visit the centre, they return frequently. And not only this but on each visit they stay for around 75 minutes compared to the national shopping centre average of 62 minutes. So what is it that attracts people to the White Rose?

Well, its easily accessible location to the south of Leeds city centre and the offer of 4,800 free car-parking spaces are obvious attractions. In addition, the centre has a strong focus on security and customer care, and has even hired its own full-time on-site community constable, Simon Jessop, who also helps with training and has full police powers.

The management team, headed by centre manager Peter Cook, is clearly focused on putting something back into the community. This includes regular activities such as line and tea dances, and also working with local schools.

Its education projects led to the creation of a numeracy pack for Key Stage Three primary education, based on the maths involved in running a shopping centre. Following this, White Rose opened a study support centre in November 2002, part-owned by Education Leeds and by Jobs & Skills.

The support centre is used out of hours by children aged 9–14 from various schools, and also for adult education projects. Local radio station REAL contributed towards a branded transport system for the children.

The centre’s marketing budget goes towards advertising with REAL Radio as well as leaflets and in-centre ads on its plasma screens. Cook explains: “We decided to focus on spending in the centre rather than outside, especially as we have loyal customers who return frequently – we want to make sure they see changes often.”

These regular changes coincide neatly with the changes within the shops. One of the traditions that the White Rose has established is its annual spring and autumn fashion shows. These have been so popular that regular shows, in which models walk the malls wearing the latest fashions with labels to promote the retailer, are now held. “This has been going down a storm,” says Cook.

Details of such activities are promoted on the centre’s 11 new 42in plasma screens. It is one of the first in the country to have had them installed and also one of the first to incorporate sound.

The plasma screens are a subtle but important element contributing to the relaxed and comfortable atmosphere that the centre exudes. The malls are spacious and the attention to customer requirements has been carefully thought out in many areas, especially the disabled facilities.

“Once a quarter I meet with a disabled sub-committee to discuss disability customer service issues with them, and they have come up with some fantastic ideas that I would never have thought of,” says Cook.

“For example, we wanted to create a large print directory, but one of the ladies on the panel who was visually impaired pointed out that this should be in black and white rather than colour, and should be on non-glossy paper to make it clearly visible.”

The efficiently-run centre has around 3,000 members of staff working within it. On the management team there is a marketing manager, a technical services manager, an ops manager, an admin manager and a night time ops manager.

In addition there are maintenance staff and also 33 customer support officers who are hired from Security Profile. The centre uses a separate company for cleaning, and has a team of around 33 staff for this.

It’s no wonder shoppers come back to the White Rose every week of the year.

With no vacant units apart from one vacated by Burger King – now in solicitors’ hands – there is no shortage of selection at White Rose. Recent changes have involved exchanging the the barrows that lined the malls for RMUs from Retail Profile. Pizza Hut has taken a food court unit and Costa Coffee has set up in the the north atrium. New lettings include Ann Summers and The Body Shop, and Envy replaced Ciro Citterio before Christmas. Many retailers are refitting, such as H Samuel, and Clinton Cards has upsized to take possibly the largest of its units in a shopping centre.

White Rose in Leeds: vital statistics

Total lettable area: 650,000 sq ft

Shop units: 100

Anchors: Debenhams (127,000 sq ft), Sainsbury’s (137,000 sq ft)

Opened: 1997

Footfall for last full trading year: nearly 10 million

Car parking spaces: 4,800

Average dwell time: 75 minutes

Average distance travelled to centre: 7.8 miles

Average time driven to visit: 17 mins

Average customer spend: £34