THE Centre Director of Churchill Square shopping centre in Brighton says Brexit is affecting sales in the shops.

Here’s his first monthly column for The Argus:

HELLO and welcome to my new monthly column with The Argus.

Over the next 12 months, I’ll be providing updates about all things Churchill Square, giving my thoughts on what is happening across the retail sector as well as some of my Brighton highlights.

Reflecting on 2018, we welcomed a selection of new brands to the centre including Zara, Pandora and Footasylum.

We hosted a fashion event which questioned the way we look at gender in fashion.

We had our Christmas grotto in true Churchill Square style and to top it all off, we were also delighted to win three top industry awards.

For me, our Drop Your Perception event in September was a real standout.

We teamed up with the award-winning anti-bullying charity Ditch The Label to create a fashion event unlike anything we’ve ever done before.

We turned traditional conventions and stereotypes that pigeonhole and restrict people because of what they are wearing on its head and hosted six days of fashion shows featuring gender-free clothing.

We also had members of the team from Ditch The Label in the centre talking to shoppers about issues affecting them.

This entire event is something everyone at Churchill Square is proud to have been a part of.

Now that 2019 is under way, it’s clear that retail faces an uncertain future with more challenges ahead.

The big question for me is, how retailers will rise to those changes?

One big obstacle for everyone has been the political uncertainty around Brexit.

It had a noticeable impact on sales across the UK pre-Christmas as consumers lacked the confidence to spend, with average footfall for the country down six per cent according to recent figures.

This will continue to be the case until we have a clearer picture of things to come.

Looking ahead, I believe creating an enhanced, more personalised shopping experience will help play a key part in making stores, brands and shopping centres more sustainable and ultimately more successful.

We can achieve this by offering a more relaxed and enjoyable retail journey that encourages people to stay longer in-store.

Whether it is giving a true “try before you buy” approach, to customers, more time to compare prices and availability of product across different retailers as well as maximising on technology, such as providing in-store tablets to browse online.

This will give shoppers the chance to click and order items while in-store.

There is even the introduction of virtual reality as some brands are doing in London.

Our student shopping event in September proved just how successful experience can be in driving footfall. We had a 12 per cent increase in attendance compared with the previous year with more than 7,000 students coming through our doors in one night – and this from the generation that lives online.

Throughout the evening there was a whole range of activities on offer, including a photobooth, a DJ, prizes throughout and, of course, student centric offers from our retailers.

This one-night-only approach utilised FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) to draw students in their thousands to a great event for everyone involved.

Make no mistake, online shopping will not be going away but for me, experience will be the key to success in 2019.

The dynamics of the retail landscape is going to have to adapt to move forward but it definitely provides us with an opportunity to diversify and grow as we understand what people want from their shopping centre experience.

I know I for one am really looking forward to an exciting year ahead.