BUSINESS and political leaders have welcomed an announcement that an extra £200,000 is to be spent on marketing the Brunel Centre as a regional shopping destination.
The Adver revealed yesterday that the cash injection is part of a bid to further boost visitor numbers and unit occupancy rates, which have increased in the year since receivers were called in.
The shopping centre in the heart of Swindon town centre was placed under the control of receivers on December 23, 2011, when centre owners CIT did not meet the terms of a long-term loan against the building which it used to buy the centre for £130m.
First Investments, which was appointed as the centre’s property and asset manager, has revealed that the administrators are injecting another £100,000 into the marketing budget, matched by £100,000 from the service charge budget, funded by tenants.
This money will be used to market the centre regionally and locally to drive up footfall, occupancy rates and the value of the centre. A marketing campaign is to start soon and is expected to take effect by the summer.
Emma Faramarzi, chairman of the Swindon Federation of Small Businesses and also a Swindon councillor, said: “Any money spent on marketing or advertising Swindon town centre is absolutely great.
“Hopefully they will get some real good return on it. They have got a lot to shout about, there’s so much regeneration work being done in the town and also we’ve got extra cheap car parking compared to other towns in the surrounding area.
“I hope they spend it wisely, not just give it to a PR agency and walk away.”
Coun Faramarzi (Con, Priory Vale) said that if she lived in Reading, she would not travel to Swindon just for the Brunel. But she might come to visit the Brunel and other town centre attractions, so the centre would have to market the Brunel as part of a wider town centre experience.
Heydar Faramarzi, president of Swindon Chamber of Commerce, said: “The Brunel shopping centre is a key retail hub in the town so we are delighted that investment will be made in marketing to increase footfall.
“This will ultimately generate more revenue into the local economy and raise the profile of Swindon as a shopping destination.”
And Swindon North MP Justin Tomlinson, who is also the vice chairman of both the retail and town centre all-party Parlia-mentary groups, said: “This is absolutely fantastic news and a real boost for the traders within the Brunel Centre. “I’m sure it will help drive up footfall, building on the gains made when the council cut the car parking charges.”
Since taking over the Brunel, First Investments says it has reduced empty shop space from 11 per cent – 58,494sq ft – to 3.34 per cent, while rent arrears have fallen from £598,000 to £35,147. Meanwhile, footfall in the last three months of 2012 was up. 100,00 visitors on the same period in 2011.