No standing still for thecentre:mk’s new chief as she hits ground running

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She’s only been in her new post for three weeks and is officially interim director at thecentre:mk but Sue Anderson-Brown says she has a vision for the way the shopping centre will need to develop.

Sue, pictured, replaced Robert Hall in the top job at the centre which has some 200 stores in 1.4 million sq-ft of retail space visited each year by around 27 million people.

“As long as the offer we give is compelling, customers will drive to us,” she said.

Revealingly, she does not see competition from the new MK1 at the football stadium or other big regional shopping centres as the real issue.

For the Yorkshire woman who has a home in Old Stratford, it is competition with the attractions of sitting at home and shopping on the internet that are the real focus.

Persuading people to leave behind the comforts of home and drive from as far away as Derby, as some do, is her task.

“We are always looking at opportunities to be innovative, we can’t stand still,” she said. “We have to make sure we are a real destination, with the best offer so they want to visit us on a regular basis.”

Sue’s approach is all encompassing, from making sure the centre’s staff are motivated, to having the most important retailers, to keeping customer service as the number one priority.

She is already looking beyond the next stage of her employment interview and is introducing a new corporate look for the 140-or-so employees of thecentre:mk.

By investing in new staff uniforms, she believes she can help boost morale.

“I want them to feel as proud to work for thecentre:mk as I do,” she said.

In a wide-ranging interview with Business Citizen, she said announcements would be coming on the centre’s strategy as well as new retailers.

Sue revealed she sees Middleton Hall as a “city square” and the centre itself as the local high street “with a lovely roof over it”.

The use of Middleton Hall is being examined as another way of bringing people into the centre and crucially, keeping them there.

The Holy Grail in big centre retailing is “dwell time”. The longer shoppers stay in a centre, the more money they will spend and see the whole experience in terms of a good day out.

But, putting the shopping centre in the wider context of Milton Keynes as a whole, she is keen to continue working in partnership with other organisations in the city to make it more attractive as a whole.

“It is a team effort,” she said. “I have to do that by working in partnership with others.”