Robert Bradley is Centre Manager at Castle Quarter, the new name for Castle Mall in Norwich. He speaks to inNorfolk about the changes currently underway and his plans for the future.
How long have you worked for Castle Quarter?
This is actually my second time here. My first spell was from 2003-2012, when I was the Operations Manager. I moved away just before the current owners bought The Castle Mall.
A year later, I was working for them, running their centre in Liverpool. I worked there until 2017, when I came back to run The Castle Mall; I was running the centre in Liverpool at the same time. I used Skype a lot!
In spite of that, I was glad to be back in Norwich. I’m a Norfolk boy, born and bred. I’m from Great Moulton, just outside Long Stratton.
What prompted the recent changes at Castle Mall?
There was one key reason behind the change: what we do has changed.
And that has been a necessity as the nature of retail changes. Shopping centres across the country have to evolve because being purely retail-focused doesn’t work any more.
Read more: David Fung interview
We already had a cinema here and we had dining options, so now we’re adding leisure; the name Castle Mall doesn’t work anymore. In fact, when we are finished retail will only equate to 50% of our space; the word mall no longer fits.
The word ‘quarter’ also reflects the four areas of what we do. ‘Shop. Dine. Watch. Play’ are the four core elements of what we’re about at Castle Quarter. The new name is a better reflection of the centre.
Can you tell me about what’s coming up?
We’ve got Super Bowl and Retro Replay opening this week, which are exciting additions. We also have another two units earmarked by leisure operators. I can’t really say more than that at the moment though, because it’s in the hands of the solicitors.
Of course, we’ve already got PureGym here alongside the Honesty Library, Ping Pong Parlour, Football Parlour and the Sharing Office, so there are lots of new facilities.
We also have new retail units. Moya Bubble Tea on Level 2, the YMCA occupies the old PoundWorld unit and Blue Inc. has reopened, selling menswear on the ground floor, near the Football Parlour.
The key to getting new retailers into the centre is our relaunch. We need to get the leisure part right, so Castle Quarter becomes a destination for local people.
In fact, Delightful Desserts took a quiet area, knowing that the new bowling alley would open in a neighbouring unit and bring people to that part of the centre. It’s a great opportunity for their business.
You’re located at the heart of Norwich. How important is it to be part of the local community?
Part of our tagline is the ‘heart of Norwich’ and we really believe that. That’s why we have Kastle Kids, and we work with Get Me Out Of These Four Walls, Norfolk Mumbler, the NHS and the Job Centre. We want to do even more than that and create more community spaces.
We had particular success with the Jobs Fair. The previous event was the most successful the organisers have ever had, with more than 35 stalls. They want to increase that to 50 at the next event!
Read more: birdsoup interview
We pride ourselves on being disability-friendly too. Once a year, shopping centres run Purple Tuesday events to raise awareness of accessibility, but we want to do this every day. 10 members of staff have learned sign language as a mark of our dedication.
We’ve challenged the marketing team to achieve set levels of engagement with the local community too. We want to push ourselves.
We are at the heart of the community.
What are you most proud of?
That’s a tough question… I would have to say the sense of community within our team.
From cleaning to security, maintenance and marketing, there have been people working here for years. Some people have been here for 25 years. Our Operations Manager started here more than 10 years ago as a security guard. She became Operations Assistant, before stepping into the Operations Manager role when I left. And she’s still here, doing fantastic work.
It was great when I came back. I knew who I would be working with, and they knew me. It was reassuring for all of us and it’s great being part of such a supportive team.