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‘The only limitations we face are the ones we put on ourself’

Meet Simon Martin, the newly appointed centre manager at Midsummer Place shopping centre in Milton Keynes. He talks exclusively to businessmk.co.uk.

Congratulations on your new role as centre manager at Midsummer Place. Tell us a bit about your background and previous experience in the retail or management industry.

 I started off on the shop floor while I was at sixth form working tills and cleaning, I then progressed through the various roles to assistant manager, store manager and then regional manager.

I have managed stores for TK Maxx, Matalan, Marks & Spencer – to name a few – and then became a regional manager for Specsavers and Toolstation, I have worked across the whole of the UK from Scotland down to the Isle of Wight and managed teams from 20 people to 650. I have also managed sales turnovers from £1 million to £52 million pounds per year

What attracted you to take on the position of centre manager at Midsummer Place? What do you hope to bring to the role?

I absolutely love both customer service and developing teams to constantly improve and evolve with the changing marketplace. As a local of Milton Keynes and someone who has a passion for retail, I have always wanted to run a shopping centre and when I saw the advert for the position, I felt like this was truly my dream job.

I will firstly give the centre the very best of me and all of my experience and skills, I will work hard to support my team to improve the customer experience when shopping in Midsummer Place and I will do everything I can to support my team’s development and continue their positive experience of working for Savills.

I will also support and work with our retail partners in midsummer place to support their challenges that they currently face

Midsummer Place has a unique and vibrant community. How do you plan to engage with local businesses, organisations and visitors to enhance their experience at the mall?

I will spend time getting to know our retailers on site, then attending networking events and I hope to join the MyMiltonKeynes BID. Working with our marketing team, I will build relationships with many of our local charities and community focus groups.

In the current retail landscape, how do you envision Midsummer Place evolving to stay relevant and appealing to shoppers?

We will focus on customer experience and provide everything todays customers wants in a key destination such as Midsummer Place in the heart of the city, we will build a community hub which will support many charities and add great value to our communities, as well as providing a destination which includes, leisure, hospitality, premium retail using the latest technology to create a fantastic experience.

Future vision: The plans for Midsummer Place’s central boulevard.

Customer experience is paramount in any retail environment. What strategies or initiatives do you plan to implement to ensure visitors have a memorable and enjoyable time at Midsummer Place?

I plan to work closer with our retail partners to build on the current customer experience, using both digital and customer feedback strategies. We have some very exciting collaborations in the pipeline that will please our customers.

It’s really important to spend time listening to customer to understand their needs and then taking (reasonable) action to deliver what our customer wants. We currently have a mystery shopper programme in place which I will work with the feedback given to us to increase the incentive to our centre team when their name is mentioned as I feel it is really important to celebrate and reward the great work that the customer facing teams do in any retail environment.

A positive customer-focused culture is really important to live and breathe everything customer so I intend to build on the current in-store culture and lead the way with my internal team to wow our customers when they visit us.

With the growth of online shopping, how do you see Midsummer Place continuing to draw shoppers who are looking for in-person shopping experiences?

I feel really passionate about face-to-face, in-person shopping experiences blended with online shopping which many people benefit from. I believe there is enough room for both experiences for our customers. I plan to bring both of these important retail elements together though supporting click and collect, online shopping platforms and – very importantly – delighting our customers by running events, working with local communities, getting behind seasonal launches, fashion shows, leisure activities and of course offering a fantastic food offer.

There is an amazing choice of foods of the world served in our pods in the heart of our shopping centre.

Sustainability and community engagement are becoming increasingly important. Are there any plans for Midsummer Place to engage in environmentally friendly practices or community-centred projects?

We are constantly exploring new ways to protect our planet through sustainability. We have planted acorn trees across the local community, we divert 100% of our waste away from landfill sites, we are 85% through replacing our lighting with LEDs which are more efficient.

We are proud to work with Willen Hospice, Walnuts School, we have supported The Bus Shelter MK and we launched a really exciting Christmas tree festival last year where 20 local businesses got involved to raise awareness for our local charities.

The role of a centre manager involves various responsibilities. Share a few insights into your typical day and how you manage the diverse aspects of the role.

My role incorporates team, stakeholder, client, customer, contractor relationships and everything that threads into those important aspects of my job.

I walk the centre daily to greet customers and make sure the building is in first class and safe condition for our visitors. I work closely with my leadership steering group who keep me updated with key information that I need to understand in order to run the shopping centre effectively and efficiently.

I liaise and feed back information back to Savills and centre operator Elandi to keep them updated with how the centre is performing and work with the retail partners to provide them with the best service possible.

Communication with tenants and partners is crucial for a successful shopping centre. How do you plan to foster strong relationships and open lines of communication with the various stakeholders at Midsummer Place? 

As I have over 30 years of retail experience, starting from working as a till operator up to regional manager, I feel super excited to support our retail partners as I have experienced everything they go through on a day to day basis.

I will meet every retail partner over the next few weeks and then invite each of the brands to a meeting in late September to talk all things current and our Christmas plans, I am going to spend time listening to the challenges our partners face and then doing everything in my power to support them.

The centre has communication platforms in place already with the partners but I am excited to build on these platforms once I understand what the challenges are for everyone and we will focus on what we can start stop and continue to improve communication and supporting our partners

Midsummer Place has a strong presence on social media. How do you plan to leverage these platforms to connect with the community, share updates, and engage with visitors?

I will continue to update the media with the exciting new stores that we will open in the future and I plan to spend time in the community over the coming months to support our local charities.

I plan to work with MyMiltonKeynes BID and become an active member supporting our local community. We have been talking about running a podcast to keep people informed of our ever-growing city and the endless events and activities which bind our community together.

What do you consider to be the most exciting aspect of leading Midsummer Place? What goals do you have for the centre during your tenure as centre manager?

The most exciting aspect of leading Midsummer Place, for me, is to continue the great work the previous centre manager had done over the past seven years to futureproof our brand and make Midsummer Place the best in class for a shopping centre of its size.

My goal is to populate every unit with a fantastic shopping brand. I plan to work closer with the CMK team and our local communities to make Midsummer Place the heart of Milton Keynes, where people travel far and wide to experience an amazing shopping experience.

I also plan to support the retailers through the challenges we are all facing in this economic climate and help them all to build their business to the level we were all enjoying pre-pandemic through driving more footfall into the centre

Lastly, tell us about who you are, what helps you to relax and something unique about Simon Martin. 

I was born in Paddington in west London and moved with my family to Milton Keynes when I was a teenager. I have four children – of whom I am incredibly proud – and I am engaged to Angela who is a personal trainer/business owner.

While in sixth form, I had three jobs and realised I loved customer service and retail and started working on the till and cleaning, I quickly progressed and realised the only limitations we face are the ones we impose on ourself. I have moved around the UK in my career, living in several counties, but I love Milton Keynes and the clean and safe environment it provides.

I am a huge advocate of personal development, having attended many self-development seminars and reading many books to educate myself. I live a very disciplined lifestyle –  I work out 6 days a week (running,  training, swimming etc) which keeps me super motivated to tackle my daily challenges at work and life.

To relax I like to travel – I love the south of France and the Caribbean – and love to go deep sea fishing when I am abroad.

I have a saying that I live by – ‘If it is to be, it’s up to me!’.

I know that I can influence my attitude and my mindset and I can influence the people around me through investing time in them and understanding that, as a leader, it is super important I listen to what people have to say in order to make a positive difference.

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