HE’S been at the helm of one of Portsmouth's biggest shopping centres for a year, and Andy Philip says he’s working hard to cope with changes to the way people shop and to make his shopping centre a vibrant and attractive place to visit.
Andy took over as centre manager at Cascades Shopping Centre in October 2017 after the previous manager Rhoda Joseph moved on to another centre in Cambridge after 14 years in charge.
Andy, who was previously the operations manager at the centre, said it was too good an opportunity to miss and decided to take on the challenge of centre manager.
The 34-year-old from Whiteley started at Cascades in September 2015, coming from roles at Rock Up and before that Port Solent, and says his time spent as operations manager gave him good experience to take on the top role.
He said: ‘It has been a learning curve. My previous role was looking after the day to day running of the centre, so this new job was not a complete surprise but there's a lot going on behind the scenes - such as with leases and legal agreements - that I was not aware of the extent of.
‘It is different but it is enjoyable. It has taken a year to get the centre to being business as usual and now it is time to step up a gear and really make Cascades great again.’
Since Andy took over, he has had to deal with the changing face of British retail - including the loss of the large M&S, which closed in March.
There has also been numerous other stores close as they struggle to compete with online retailers and he has also had to deal with the large empty unit formerly occupied by BHS, which fell into administration and closed in July 2016, which to this day remains unleased.
However, as stores have closed, others have opened and there are signs of regeneration.
The centre’s independent street – Kingswell Path – has seen American football specialists Victory Sports and specialist toy shop Sonner Toys open their doors.
Other independents like Marabella’s Boutique, a children's clothing store, menswear store HemingCo, and the Trendy Nail Salon are all thriving.
Andy said: ‘People are saying that the high street is changing and there will be a rise of the independents.
‘When I started here, part of what I wanted to look at was becoming more involved with independents. Really encouraging those business that are unique and attract people from all over to the centre.’
Andy has been a keen supporter of start-up and small business, and he said that it is important to spend extra time dealing with these businesses to foster good relationships.
Another key area of focus for Andy is to bring more fashion into the centre. New Look has recently moved from its high street store into the shopping centre - and Andy says he hopes to inspire more fashion brands to move in soon.
As well as securing businesses to operate from the centre, including work underway to secure a major name into the former M&S unit, Andy is keen to create a place that the community want to spend time in.
The free ping pong is returning to the former BHS unit for the second year running and the grotto has opened. Previous initiatives such as the free family cinema and the school holiday kids club have been received well and Andy says he’s also working to secure relationships with community groups.
The New Theatre Royal will take over an empty unit with an exhibition of children's artwork and the Portsmouth table tennis club will be regularly using the free ping pong tables.
Andy said: ‘When we had the free ping pong last time, it was rare that you could find a table as it was that popular. It was something that the whole community could enjoy.’
As with any shopping centre, late night shopping is also taking place until Christmas and the centre is offering 30 minutes free parking for any click and collect customers in a bid to work with online shopping,m instead of competing against it.
Andy, who is also kept busy in his family life as dad to two-year-old twins, added: ‘Retail is changing massively.
‘We are moving to become a leisure operation. You cannot get experiences online just convenience. Shops and centres like ours need to provide an experience, that’s what we are trying to achieve.'