Today (Tuesday 13th) marks the first anniversary of the opening of the Willow Brook Centre, Bradley Stoke’s long-awaited town centre shopping development.
Construction of the centre finally got underway in December 2007 after years of planning re-thinks and financial setbacks.
Phase one of the development, consisting of the main mall building (incorporating the giant Tesco Extra store) and two sides of the Town Square opened just ten months later on Monday 13th October 2008.
The old Tesco store, which had continued to trade during construction of the new centre alongside it, was then demolished and by the end of November 2008 its footprint had been subsumed into the car park of the new development.
Work on phase two of the centre, including a ‘retail terrace’ of large non-food units and a third side to the Town Square was completed in April 2009 and shoe store Brantano became the first major outlet to open in that part of the development on Wednesday 22nd July 2009.
The Journal’s reporter recently met up with Willow Brook Manager Scott Lahive to look back on the centre’s first year of trading.
In the interview, Mr Lahive told The Journal that he is delighted with the trading performance of the centre over the first twelve months. One or two early teething problems (such as the state of the car parks while construction of phase two was underway) have been overcome and he feels that the centre is maturing nicely into the community focal point that many people said Bradley Stoke lacked.
READ ON for a look back at developments over the last twelve months and news of new stores promised and anticipated over the coming months.
The Willow Brook Centre opened its doors to the public at 8am on Monday 13th October 2008. The first shopper into the building was Nigel Grove from Portishead, a landlord with a number of properties in Bradley Stoke, closely followed by a group of local schoolchildren. The early birds were rewarded with £10 vouchers to spend at the new Tesco Extra store.
The official opening took place later the same morning, when Bradley Stoke Mayor Robert Jones and Tesco Extra Manager Oliver Hill cut the ceremonial ribbon.
Related Link: Willow Brook Centre- opening day reviewed
Other shops managing to open on the first day of trading were Subway, KFC, Carphone Warehouse and Shoe Zone. Costa Coffee, Greggs, Reflections and O2 followed later in the week, with Nationwide completing the first tranche of traders the following Monday.
The first tenants of office suites on the first floor of the mall were Explore Learning and Curves, who both began trading in January 2009. They were joined in March by C J Hole estate agents, who transferred their business from Fountains Court, in the north of Bradley Stoke. Pitman Training, also previously trading elsewhere in the town, joined them soon after.
Taylors estate agents moved into a Town Square unit in May, followed later the same month by Ladbrokes (the first of the phase two tenants). The same month saw shoe repair and key cutting company Timpson open a unit in the mall and Phoenix Dental, Bradley Stoke’s first-ever NHS dentist, beginning their service in one of the mall office suites.
Kumon Education quietly moved into another of the mall office units in mid-June.
July saw the first opening of a retail terrace unit, taken by shoe outlet Brantano. A curious “overstocking issue” led to the opening being put back by one day from the advertised date.
Back in the mall, Card Factory opened in early August, followed by Giant Cycles later in the month. They were joined a couple of months later by Specsavers, who began trading on Monday 5th October.
Coming soon to the Willow Brook Centre
Animal superstore Pets at Home has recently begun the fitting out of its unit in the retail terrace and Mr Lahive was able to disclose that the store hopes to begin trading on Friday 6th November.
Beyond that, there are no contractually confirmed new tenants in the pipeline, although the addition of a further “fast food outlet” in the Town Square is highly likely, according to Mr Lahive. This will be in unit 9, to the immediate right of Ladbrokes – currently shown as being “under offer” in marketing literature published by agents Morgan Williams.
Fashion retailer New Look, shown over a year ago in marketing material as having an interest in one of the retail terrace units is said to be “on hold” and “not yet written off”. Mr Lahive says the collapse of the Woolworths chain has meant that groups like New Look have directed their attention towards up-sizing stores in existing locations rather than investing in openings at new sites. Budget clothes firm Peacocks is understood to have also “shown interest”, as has an unnamed sports retailer.
A bank, homeware store and stationer are among the firms who have expressed interest in moving into the few remaining mall units, although discussions are “not yet advanced”, according to Mr Lahive.
Businesses that the centre is keen to attract in order to enhance diversity include banks, travel agents, jewellers and electrical goods retailers.
The inclusion of a family-oriented restaurant in the centre’s portfolio remains a priority and recent discussions are said to have taken place with Asian and Italian-themed businesses.
PART TWO of this article will follow in a few days time.
Last 5 posts in New Town Centre
- Willow Brook shopping centre prepares for more businesses to reopen - 9th June 2020
- Discount retailer One Below to open store at Willow Brook - 19th September 2019
- Hospice charity shop now open at Willow Brook - 6th September 2019
- Children’s Hospice South West to open new charity shop in Bradley Stoke - 10th August 2019
- Willow Brook backtracks over speed bumps - 2nd August 2019