A YEAR after The Brooks Shopping Centre was sold to Gentian, the new team has revealed what it envisages for the centre’s long-term future.

The Winchester shopping centre has been under the management of Yarrow Estates for just over a year. In that time, benches have been added, CCTV has been increased to improve safety, the centre started closing half an hour earlier to save electricity, community groups have performed and new businesses such as Sports Direct have been welcomed in.

The team, led by Simon Turpin, director of Yarrow Estates, marketing manager Vicki Oliver and Lisa Evans, centre manager, hopes to get more involved with the community by working with fellow organisations like Winchester BID and the city council.

READ MORE: Brooks Shopping Centre Winchester sold to Gentian Developments

Hampshire Chronicle: Simon Turpin and Vicki Oliver outside The Brooks Shopping CentreSimon Turpin and Vicki Oliver outside The Brooks Shopping Centre (Image: Adele Bouchard)

The centre was fully let for the first time over Christmas for the first time in decades and Mr Turpin hopes it will be again by the end of the year, with his sights set on a coffee shop and potentially a health and beauty business to fill the empty units.

Mr Turpin said: “We’ve been doing a lot to try and rebrand the Brooks – it’s about changing perceptions. Winchester is phenomenal for high end but that is not everyone’s budget. Very proud to be the more sort of value offer. I would like to see more brands here. A lot of people have this downer on the Brooks and we are trying to reinvent that.

“We’re building better relationships with our tenants. They’re our business partners, without them we don’t have a business. The service charges here used to be way too high. We have to be dealing with affordable and realistic rents.

“To see a place with so few voids is very rare. It’s a very vibrant retail centre. After the cathedral, the Great Hall and the city hall the Brooks is the largest public enclosed space in the city centre. This shopping centre is overdue a renaissance.

SEE ALSO: Look inside new Sports Direct as it opens its doors in Winchester

Hampshire Chronicle: Simon TurpinSimon Turpin (Image: Adele Bouchard)

“You don’t have to come in and buy things, you can come in and just be. It’s lovely to see more mums and dads spending time in here with their kids.

“It’s a safe and welcoming space with great brands. We want something that looks attractive from the outside and is welcome inside and is part of the whole Winchester scheme.

“Really want to work with local suppliers. We want to be a very responsible employer and an enjoyable place to work.”

Hampshire Chronicle: The Little Gym will be moving into the Brooks soonThe Little Gym will be moving into the Brooks soon (Image: Adele Bouchard)

Vicki Oliver, marketing manager, said: “We've met with local organisations and music community groups. We can give them a place to showcase. We’re trying to build up a calendar of events that people can bring their children to. We’ve got lots going on – some with Winchester BID and some of our own stuff.

“It’s about affordability. We’ve got to find shops that compliment the offer we already have here and finding the right terms for them to make it an attractive offer. We are all proud to be part of one team taking it forward.

“It’s like an indoor park where people can come out of the cold and children can play. At COWfest I was speaking to parents here and they were all saying that they have noticed improvements and it feels a lot safer, cleaner and with more shops coming in. It’s a big testament to us that they want to bring their kids here. Our social media following is going up too. There’s been lots of little tweaks.

READ ALSO: Christmas shop means shopping centre will be filled for first time in decades

Hampshire Chronicle: Vicki OliverVicki Oliver (Image: Adele Bouchard)

“We’re listening to our tenants and customers and the changes that they want. The first couple of years are very much about that and then we can start expanding on that and shining in other ways. We’re stripping it back to basics to start building it back up again.”

Sarah Davis, manager of Winchester BID, said: “The Brooks Shopping Centre is a valuable addition to Winchester providing an indoor environment for a lot of national brands in the city.  As well as Primark, TK Maxx, HMV and Waterstones, new stores like Sports Direct bring a whole new audience to the area.  And not forgetting the independent businesses like Marse, Ballet Pointe and 99 Vintage which cater to a younger, more diverse audience.

“At Winchester BID we look forward to working with the shops in the centre to promote our forthcoming Bunny Hop trail as well as seeing which businesses will fill the units that are currently vacant.”

The Little Gym is next in line to move into The Brooks, with a couple of other empty units being marketed by Goadsby. The team also hopes to improve its accessibility.