Doing things differently – St Johns Shopping Centre comes back smiling after lockdown
3 years ago
We’ve got used to face coverings, hand sanitiser, social-distancing and, even, one-way systems in stores and malls.
But one Liverpool shopping centre has chosen not to shepherd customers in one direction after the lifting of lockdown.
Unlike many others, St Johns Shopping Centre has ruled out a one-way system along with constant entrance closures.
“From our experience and research, these don’t match everyday customer behaviour,” says centre manager Neil Ashcroft. “Instead we have taken a more nuanced approach, using our security staff and in-centre monitoring system to ensure the centre is at a safe capacity at all times.
“Clear and bold signage has also been used to keep shoppers informed and safe.”
St Johns says it ensures shopping remains as simple and straightforward as possible, with plenty of social distancing reminders as well as floor markings highlighting where shoppers can queue for their favourite stores.
“We want people to shop safely, and enjoy their visit to the Centre,” adds Neil. Although he says that, because they have calculated the number of people who can be in the centre at any one time, they CAN close entrances once that number is reached until it’s safe to allow more people inside.
If it seems it’s business as usual for the shopping centre, it is. St Johns, in fact, did remain open during lockdown to ensure its essential food and household shops could continue to trade throughout.
Now, almost all of the shops are back in business and, while footfall is down compared with last year, centre bosses are confident they will bounce back.
Continues Neil: “Like every shopping centre, coronavirus and the lockdown had a profound and immediate impact on St Johns but even in the weeks leading up to lockdown we were undertaking detailed planning to mitigate the impact of whichever route the Government was planning to take.
“We ensured essential stores would remain open to serve NHS and key workers and the local community.
“We have a very loyal shopper base and we are seeing more and more of our customers returning each week.”
Rather than sitting still, Neil said the centre had used the opportunity of lockdown to review its sales and marketing plan, launching a brand-new website and digital marketing efforts to give the stores the best possible promotion as soon as full trading was able to resume.
It also embarked on new initiatives, like its ‘Here For You’ campaign, emphasising that St Johns ‘is a community shopping centre in the heart of the city’ with ‘everything under one roof’: “Whether you want a new hair style, to pick up some toys for the kids, or do the weekly food shop, you can do it all at St Johns.”
Its new motto is ‘Shop, Eat, Play, Discover’: “Because there is so much to see and do,” adds Neil. “In addition to our mix of independent and high street stores, we’ve recently unveiled some new attractions including our living green wall which is the largest in the UK outside London, along with our latest One Million Smiles campaign which will see events, surprises and giveaways in and around the centre – all with the aim of creating one millions smiles across Liverpool this year.”
St Johns says its customers have appreciated and respected new measures that have been introduced and reactions have been positive throughout and since lockdown.
And Neil adds: “Despite coronavirus we’ve actually increased our shop fill rate, with a large, new One Below store opening last months and some exciting new shops opening over the next few months.
“Our centre staff, retailers and support staff have all pulled together and I’m very proud of their efforts and commitment.
“Now that the government lockdown measures are easing it’s wonderful to see the Centre coming to life again as people pop in to grab a bite to eat, browse for clothes or get their hair and nails done.
“It’s also reassuring to see the public embracing the social distancing regulations and wearing face coverings during their visits to the Centre. Together, we can all prevent the spread of this virus and help Liverpool return to some form of pre-COVID normality.”