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The evolving role of flagship shopping destinations

intu Watford's £180 million retail and leisure extension proves that if you get the mix of shopping and leisure right, visitors will come. But more than that, investing in retail can have a lasting change on the wider area, injecting new life into town and city centres and improving prosperity far outside the shopping centre's walls.


more stores


new restaurants


new leisure operators


year-on-year footfall increase


of Watford jobs now supported by intu

The expansion of intu Watford, which has been detailed in a new report, has brought in new retailers, restaurants and leisure operators previously unavailable in the town to create a thriving destination at the heart of Watford high street.
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The increased investment and subsequent customer demand has promoted Watford to a top-20 retail destination in property consultancy CACI's national rankings, alongside Reading and Edinburgh, while the extra jobs created means intu Watford now supports 12% of all jobs in the town.

It is a constantly changing and sometimes challenging retail environment but with the right investment and collaboration, the best locations can and will continue to evolve and thrive

Matthew Roberts
intu chief executive

Collaboration with Watford Borough Council was a key element of the success of the intu Watford scheme, which redeveloped a run-down precinct previously owned by the council and complemented the wider regeneration of the high street. 

The new report, 'The evolving role of flagship shopping destinations', covers the redevelopment of intu Watford from its inception to its launch. 

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Lessons learned

Collaboration between private landlords, local authorities and tenants is crucial and other investment has to follow

Creating a vibrant high street relies on private landlords and local councils working together with the right operators to create a place which people are drawn to.

Making bold moves will keep you ahead of the competition

Development director Martin Breeden says there has to be a pioneer in order that bricks and mortar retail continues to move forward. “There has to be a certain boldness to make that change, which is what we’ve done here by creating a new project of scale that provides a whole day out series of activities,” he says.

Recognise that retail is a central part of the community

Seeing the shopping centre as an important meeting point within the town helps to value it rightly. intu hosts a number of activities throughout the year which attract families and add to the idea that visiting a shopping centre is a day out. intu Watford has enjoyed great success with in-house trick or treating events and a Big Bugs giant sculptures tour.

Understand that in a challenging retail environment, the customer wants much more than the standard

“It’s about providing exactly what the guests want and putting the show on,” Breeden says. “We’re not too proud to look at other fields. Anywhere that does guest services and resort-type operations well, particularly outside of the direct retail sphere  — we’re always interested in that.” He says that the attitude of the staff members who customers encounter is central to their enjoyment of the day.