A YEAR OF REVOLUTION Giulia Bunting has taken over the helm at shopping centre industry body Revo as the organisation looks to bed in unprecedented changes. What does her year in office hold in store?
ntroducing a new name is probably the easiest of the reforms underway, but as new president Bunting seems to relish the challenge of remaking the old British Council of Shopping Centres into a body fit for the 21st century. “Now is the perfect time to be president,” Bunting asserts. “Having created the expectation now we have to deliver.” As a vice-president, Bunting was part of the team that put the Revo rebranding in place. “We had to rebrand to persuade people that we’ve changed,” she explains, “it was a tough thing to do because people held the old BCSC dearly.” And on balance she believes “there’s been an amazing response. We anticipated a lot more backlash.” One of her first tasks as president was to host a dinner for all the past presidents and some came with misgivings about the new identity. But Bunting believes that, by the end of the evening, they were persuaded that the change is for the better and that it allows the organisation to embrace a wider constituency. “It could be out-of-town, leisure or town centres, but retail is the glue that holds it all together,” she says. So, with the rebranding achieved, what’s next on the agenda? “We won’t SHOPPING CENTRE MARCH 2017
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change everything, although everything’s up for review,” she says. But already confirmed is a complete remodelling of the annual conference and exhibition, which this year goes to Liverpool. Architect Leslie Jones won a competition to redesign the exhibition. “We’ve asked them to masterplan the layout, almost like a shopping centre,” Bunting explains. One of the innovations will be a forum for talks on the exhibition floor rather than the old closed-room conference sessions, which should make it easier for people to dip in and out. Broadly, Bunting’s aim is to widen the appeal of the event to attract new groups of people such as smaller agents, out-of-town agents and developers, leisure operators, investors and perhaps even residential developers. “We’ve brought down the prices and people are responding,” she says. Although the flagship event is September is key for Revo both financially and in terms of profile, Bunting is keen that is does not dominate at the expense of all the other things the organisation does. “I’m very keen that all the other events we put on have more prominence,” she says. Reflecting this, Revo is launching a
dedicated event for local authorities in June 2015. Councils have been the most active players in the shopping centre investment market over the past 18 months, leveraging their low cost of borrowing to outbid private-sector investors. Now, they have to face the challenge of managing all the assets they’ve bought. Bunting is a planner by profession, and after qualification she started in the public sector before moving to Drivers Jonas, where she rose to head of planning, before joining GL Hearn in a similar role. She’s advised as planning consultant on some of the biggest retail-led regeneration schemes such as Liverpool One and Cabot Circus. So with a big full-time job, what motivated her to get involved with Revo? “From a personal point of view I got involved because I wanted to see more diversity,” she says. “I want it to get away from that old golf club mentality where it’s not what you know but it’s who you know that counts.” And that means not just more prominence for women – Bunting is only the second woman president – but also for younger people. “Let’s look at things differently,” she concludes. www.shopping-centre.co.uk