Mark Dransfield is the Managing Director and Founder of Dransfield Properties Ltd, a property development firm based in Barnsley, UK, which specializes in retail-led urban regeneration schemes. Here he speaks to Real Estate Publishers about the company's recent activity and plans for growth, and shares his insights into the state of the retail market in the UK.
What has Dransfield been up to over the past 12 months?
"The last 12 months have been really busy for Dransfield Properties; we have started work on a new Morrisons foodstore in Morpeth where we also own and manage the award winning Sanderson Arcade development. Work also started on a Morrisons store in Houghton Regis in Bedfordshire and the second phase of our Lime Square development in Openshaw, East Manchester was completed in the early part of this year.
"We're now looking forward to starting work on phase three at Lime Square which is anchored by an 80,000 ft² (approx. 7,400 m²) Morrisons store. We are currently working on new town center developments in Royton, Oldham and in Poulton le Fylde in the North West. In May this year we celebrated our 20th anniversary which was quite a milestone for us as a company."
Do you have any plans for growth where will this be directed?
"Foodstores have been the cornerstone of our business since our very first development back in 1992 and we have a number of new schemes which we are currently looking at which will include both food and non-food retail. We are also taking the management of a number of our existing shopping centers and developments in house this year. It's a challenging but exciting step for us and an important part of our strategy to drive down the cost of occupancy for our tenants."
How important is a food anchor to the success of a retail scheme?
"Hugely important, the location of a food store determines people's shopping patterns. We have always believed that a food store should be located close to the town or district center where it can underpin the rest of the town and encourage linked shopping trips.
"Sites closest to the town center may not always be the easiest to develop but if you look at those towns which have continued to thrive throughout the recession a food store anchor and good, accessible parking will always be a vital ingredient."
Can you give me your opinion on the state of the retail market in the UK?
"The last few years have been a difficult time for the retail industry, my own opinion is that it's vital to give people something different a real experience and great customer service which differentiates the high street or shopping center from the online shop. Our developments are primarily in the north and getting the retail mix right for the town is crucial to a center's success. We've just opened a new boutique department store at Marshall's Yard - our shopping center in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire and it's doing really well.
"I think market towns with the right retail mix have fared well in recent years. Giving people great service and quality products in their own town which they don't have to drive long distances for is really important."