Since 1990 Lakeside has set new benchmarks and innovated to drive shopper footfall, but how is it keeping up with changing shopper behaviour?

Paul Lancaster, General Manager, Lakeside

Alongside Lakeside Shopping Centre, swans glide serenely on Lake Alexandra - the frantic, unseen activity below the surface is a fitting analogy of how Lakeside has skilfully navigated the shifting retail terrain over the past 21 years.

With almost 240,000m2 of retail space, including 250 stores, the trailblazing Lakeside experience was launched on October 25, 1990 in a dramatic global climate; that same year, the worldwide web was invented, Margaret Thatcher resigned and Germany was reunited.

It’s easy to overlook just how pioneering Lakeside was in creating an exciting new concept in shopping in southern England, setting a new benchmark retail destination. Over the past decade, that challenge has undoubtedly grown ever tougher, but delivering sustained success stems from a determined commitment to optimise the quality of the experience. Lakeside has never rested on its laurels and has always focused on continually enhancing its estate, the shopper experience and the communication of the shopper experience.

Lakeside strives for those goals each and every day but the single most significant expression of that focus was the £30m refurbishment programme (2004), which radically updated Lakeside’s interior, including new tiling, much more use of natural light, and improved accessibility via new escalators, lifts and automatic entrance doors.

Meeting 25 million demands

Lakeside is all about the consistent and holistic delivery of a great experience for the shopper - all 25 million of them. The key to its sustained success is that its team always listens to the customer; particularly in bringing them the brands and choices they want to see - and not only in the stores but also in food and beverage (F&B), such as the UK’s first Taco Bell.

In fact, F&B has grown so much in importance that The Boardwalk development (2007) expanded F&B from 13% to 17% of total outlets. In this, Lakeside particularly reflected the shopper’s increased demand for an innovative, exciting and varied range of F&B options throughout the day and evening.

Lakeside’s stunning environment, hosting a powerful portfolio of retail and F&B brands, provides an outstanding platform on which to drive engagement and communication with the shopper.

As shopper behaviour evolves, its promotional programme accelerates, developing smarter and faster ways to attract, engage and convince the shopper, including a flow of footfall-driving activations - from major scale fashion shows to ‘Jean Genie’, a free ‘style squad’ that supports shoppers in selecting the perfect pair of jeans. The centre also utilises seasonal and locally focused events, the Lakeside Triathlon and the Sea Cadet Fest.

Rapid response retail

In communication, social media and new technology provide new opportunities to meet the shopper’s needs and strengthen loyalty (eg, via the Lakeside website, Facebook and Twitter pages), including communicating on a daily basis - occasionally even hourly - regarding promotions, competitions, celebrity appearances, new openings, etc. The speed, frequency, clarity and multi-directional nature of social media communication is probably the most radical shift the shopping centre has seen over the past decade and it often demands not only rapid responses from the Lakeside team but also from its brand partners, thus further developing a shared approach.

The next decade

With current pressures across UK retail, Lakeside’s high-profile position as a prime destination will help it to continue to thrive, particularly in its consolidation of a retail experience that the high street, and many other locations, simply cannot match. CSC’s continuing investment commitment to Lakeside has certainly rejuvenated the centre and it has not only exceeded

the shoppers’ expectations but also supported retailers in exceeding their sales expectations.

Looking ahead, Lakeside is closely involved in advancing the broader vision for the region over the next decade, especially in supporting the Lakeside & West Thurrock Master Plan. This initiative aims to maintain the area’s commercial momentum, improve accessibility and blend Lakeside even more closely with the community it serves.

Lakeside’s feathered neighbours on the lake make it look easy and, whatever changes the next decade brings, the Essex-based shopping centre is fully committed to ensuring that Lakeside will continue just as smoothly on the next 21 years of this remarkable retail journey.