Brent Cross at 40 – how this iconic centre evolved in the retail revolution
This year marked the 40th birthday of Brent Cross shopping centre, and as someone who’s been lucky enough to grow up around it I’ve seen how the place has changed over the years.
One of the things I’ve been struck by is how – despite not being nearly as big or highly funded as the likes of Westfield – this old-timer has battled the odds and remained a firm favourite with tourists and locals alike.
I thought I’d explore why I think Brent Cross managed to be so successful, some of the technology that has driven that, and where I think it might be headed in future.
Brent Cross learned how to adapt
The big shopping centres of today have been purpose-built with the 21st century in mind. They are digitally enabled, with a physical infrastructure that lends itself for agile adoption of new technology.
Brent Cross doesn’t have this luxury. It was built at a time when digital most certainly wasn’t on the agenda.
Yet despite this handicap it has still managed to keep up with the times. When you walk in there now you see the same kind of digital tech you’d expect anywhere else, from HD digital displays to free Wi-Fi.
It even has an app now, Brent Cross PLUS, which uses customers’ data to give them personalised offers, giveaways and event invites.
Yes, this type of technology is nothing particularly groundbreaking in itself when you consider how far retail has come. But when you consider the extent to which Brent Cross started on the back foot, the fact it has still managed to stay current is all the more impressive.
Brent Cross hasn’t neglected its heritage
The reason I think people are choosing Brent Cross over its competitors, is it has managed to stay current throughout the years without ever losing its much-loved heritage.
No matter how well-equipped the modern upstarts are, the likes of Westfield will never be able to compete on history.
And Brent Cross’s smaller size has actually worked to its advantage. It’s naturally able to offer a much more personalised experience than its much larger competitors.
So while this centre has worked hard to improve the tech within its walls, the general feel of the place very much sticks to its roots. This is the real key to its success, and provided it never neglects its heritage I’m positive it will continue to succeed.
Sure, this place isn’t perfect. But let’s be fair: it has done pretty well to be thriving after four decades, particularly when shopping centres up and down the country have been forced to close their doors.
Could Brent Cross improve elements like connectivity in certain parts of the centre? Yes. Is its app on a par with those of the larger retailers? Probably not.
But given the rate at which this centre has developed its technology over the last few years, I have no doubt we’ll see some fantastic improvements in the next few.
The Telegraph asked in a recent article whether Brent Cross will still exist in 40 years.
My answer? A big, fat, yes!
Liked this post? Check out my recent piece about improving the retail experience through in-store analytics.