Club members find out more about Arcade and markets

Medi Parry, Les English and President Jim Dunn taken beside the Britain in Bloom Awards.
Medi Parry, Les English and President Jim Dunn taken beside the Britain in Bloom Awards.

Morpeth Rotary Club

PROMOTING the Arcade, the markets and Morpeth is what Medi Parry, manager of Sanderson Arcade, is about.

She recently told Morpeth Rotarians and guests about her plans. One of the guests was Les English, fresh from the triumph of Morpeth winning Britain in Bloom.

Les is a Paul Harris Fellow, an honour awarded by Morpeth Rotary Club some years ago for his work for the town.

Sanderson Arcade, with the Chamber of Trade, had also won a Britain in Bloom award for best agricultural and environmental contribution by business.

The Arcade was opened by Joanna Lumley in 2009 and is now 110,000 square feet of retail and commercial space with 43 tenants, fully let for the first time.

It has a staff of ten including five beadles, four cleaners and the manager. Beadles are trained in first aid, customer service and as ‘town centre ambassadors’. It tries to employ local people and all live within seven miles of Morpeth.

It has footfall counters and there are 45,000 to 48,000 weekly visitors. Those who come along are spending longer on each visit, with an increase from 20 to 30 minutes over a four-year period, and there are more coaches bringing people into the town centre.

There have been a number of further developments over the last two years with the opening of the Hobbs ladies fashion store, Frank Bird Menswear, Jazz Hair Salon, a new cafe at Curiously Wicked, the Wool Room’s first UK shop, William Hill and number of earlier tenants have renewed.

The Arcade works with tenants to plan improvements. There is a weekly e-mail every Monday morning with footfall figures and four tenant meetings are held each year in the management suite.

There are monthly meetings with area managers to discuss performance, compare Sanderson Arcade with other parts of the region and get feedback from the trade.

Waste recycling is up to 85 per cent and there have been improvements in health and safety, customer service and cleanliness. Staff are aiming at a higher level of training in customer service – tenants provide employment for 400 staff in all categories.

Marketing is aimed at Morpeth not just Sanderson Arcade. There is a new logo: ‘Love shopping, love Morpeth’ and a new graphic on all Arcade taxis. National adverts are organised and work is done with cruise lines, ferry companies, Northumberland Tourism and Metro Radio.

Web hits are at about 18,000 each month and a newsletter is sent out to 11,000 e-mail addresses. Twitter and Facebook are used and links have been set up with other websites such as ‘More in Morpeth’.

Two or three press releases are sent out each week and news and events are carried in the local and regional press.

There are fashion shows at the Arcade and seasonal events at Halloween, New Year and Easter and an events diary covering the full year. There is a gallery with a different display of artworks every month, including designs from schools in Morpeth and other parts of Northumberland.

There are centre awards in various areas, such as store manager of the year and achievements in recycling, and last year it started a new accolade for staff and for retailers to recognise excellent customer service.

Staff recently welcomed the nine-millionth customer and next year there will be a special event for the ten-millionth.

The new Christmas lights display will be switched on this Saturday and there will be a reindeer visit on December 14. This year the switch-on will be the same day as the main display in the town.

Late night shopping was tried last year but was not successful. Instead, Sundays in December will be promoted, with live music, free mince pies and mulled wine – there is free parking on Sundays.

In addition, there will be an event every Saturday in the build up to Christmas. The Arcade normally gets between 8,000 and 9,000 each Saturday, but staff are expecting between 11,000 and 12,000 on these days.

Work is done for the community and each year the tenants select a charity to support. This year it is the Sick Children’s Trust at Newcastle and the target is £10,000.

There will be a charity cycle ride from Morpeth to the Olympic Park in London, staff from a range of businesses took part in the Great North Run and there is to be a sky diving challenge.

The Arcade is a member of the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade and is one of five organisations on the Morpeth Town Team advising on the use of Mary Portas Challenge money.

It is also on the Emily Wilding Davison Committee, the bi-monthly town stakeholder group, the Morpeth in Bloom group, the Morpeth Partnership Group, involved in the More in Morpeth campaign and actively working with various schools and other organisations.

There has been a relaunch of the markets this year in partnership with the county council, town council and the Town Team. The Wednesday market and farmers’ market bring people into the town and the Arcade.

The first Morpeth Food and Drink Festival took place last month and that should become an annual event.

KEVI students will be given an opportunity to trade on the market on Saturday, November 30. They will be asked to present a business plan and 20 stalls will be available to groups of pupils between 9am and 3pm. They will be judged and advised by business experts, including one of the people who took part in the television show ‘The Apprentice’ and Mark Dransfield, with the winner being awarded £300 towards their business idea.

The Arcade has won various awards this year, including Loo of the Year and Centre Manager of the Year as well as the Britain in Bloom accolade mentioned earlier. This is the second shopping centre owned by Dransfield Properties, the other one is in Lincolnshire. A third will open soon in Sheffield.

Even with the opening of the new Morrisons store in Morpeth, footfall is still going up at the Arcade.

The new car park has freed up parking for shoppers in the town and it is hoped that the old Morrisons site will be used for retail shortly and so will link up with the other retail areas of the town centre and the new Morrisons.