Leap into action at the Big Stockport Run

The town’s army of decorated frogs have been given a special role at this year’s BIG Stockport Run.

The colourful amphibians, which have been living on the streets of Stockport for the past two months, will form the trail for the ‘Frog Dash’, a special charity treasure trail organised for families.

The dash will take place on Sunday, September 15, alongside the BIG Stockport Run, which starts and finishes in St Petersgate.

Children of all ages are encouraged to dress up as a frog (although this is not compulsory) and follow a map around the giant decorated frogs, which were put in place as part of The Giant Leap Frog Art Trial, organised by Totally Stockport to engage visitors with the town centre.

Totally Stockport’s BID Manager, Paul Taylor who has led on the Giant Leap project, said:

“Stockport’s Giant Leap Frog Art Trail has been an amazing success! It’s created a massive buzz and, since we launched the art trail of 19 giant frogs sponsored by local businesses, the number of visitors to the town centre has increased by over 20percent.

“Stockport’s 10K and family fun run always attracts huge crowds and we are delighted to be partnering with the team at Life Leisure to bring you the frog dash! This will be a family fun event with the frog dash following the trail around some of the frogs and the first three winners will be presented with a gold, silver and bronze miniature frog.”

Laura Mylotte, Head of Marketing from Life Leisure, which runs the annual event, said:

“We are really excited to partner with Totally Stockport for this year’s event. It’s great to be able to add another event for families in our ever changing town centre.

“Children and families will need to follow a treasure map to find out which frog they need to head to next – so it will take brains as well as brawn! It’s suitable for all ages and it would be great to see children dressing up as frogs for the occasion”. 

The frogs will be hopping off at the end of September, so event organisers hope the event will also be a great opportunity for people who haven’t had chance to visit them yet.

Money raised from the event will go to the homeless charity The Wellspring.  Entries cost just £5 and include entry into the Big Stockport Family Fun Run (which kicks off at 10.15am) and the Frog Dash (which starts at 11.30am).

To enter, for more information about the event, or for details regarding the Big Stockport Run,  go to the Life Leisure website or follow @BIGEventSeries on Twitter.

Mercedes-Benz of Stockport Opens

LSH Auto UK, part of the world’s largest Mercedes-Benz dealership (LSH International), has officially opened the UK’s first Mercedes-Benz Autohaus – a dedicated retail space that forms part of the brand-new Mercedes-Benz of Stockport, which is now open.

LSH Auto UK has regenerated the site off Brighton Road with a state-of-the art, purpose-built three-story facility, which will form LSH Auto UK’s Mercedes-Benz hub for the entire Manchester area.

Mercedes-Benz of Stockport has two buildings at the flagship site – a 13,492sqm showroom – the Autohaus; a retail space for new and used cars and an aftersales facility, and a 17,166sqm purpose-built high-tech Body, Paint and Repair Centre, which is now open. This building also operates LSH Auto UK’s regional Used Car Preparation Facility and Parts Distribution Centre.

A destination in its own right, spread over 10.5-acres, Mercedes-Benz of Stockport comes complete with distinct, innovative features including a brand-new bistro, dedicated event facilities and garden, as well as a sleek-designed dealership space showcasing 140 vehicles. It will also incorporate a dedicated AMG suite and display 100 approved used Mercedes Benz vehicles in a purpose-built indoor showroom.

The first Mercedes-Benz showroom in the UK to offer a licensed in-house bistro, serving refreshing light bites for breakfast and lunch including paninis, specialty cakes and pastries and a selection of wine and craft beers. The new hospitality concept will also have its very own dedicated Hospitality Manager, Tom Smith, previously Bar and Tea Room Manager at The Midland Hotel.

The site also sees the innovative use of green spaces, including a living green wall and a contemporary water feature, with further extensive landscaping creating an attractive garden.

The modern space can also be hired for private events and meetings, with the facility holding an event license for exclusive late-night events, including a car registration change event, which will be hosted twice a year at the site.

The site also boasts an ample outdoor roof terrace, complete with plush furniture and views across Stockport, as well as multiple meetings room and a cinema style meeting room, all available for private hire.

Mercedes-Benz of Stockport will also unveil a calendar of events to be held there across the year.

John Stanton, General Manager at Mercedes-Benz of Stockport, said: “We’re really excited to be officially open and welcoming customers through the doors. Mercedes-Benz of Stockport is a landmark destination in its own right. We have a really unique customer offering here that will be a game-changer for automotive retailing as we know it. Everything we provide here is about being unique and distinct, we want to see the space used in innovative ways and look forward to showcasing its endless possibilities.”

What does the future hold for Stockport town centre?

Leasing Director, Obit Developments, Rhys Owen discusses how Stockport can continue their success over the next 5 years.

"On Thursday 28th February we will be hosting our latest breakfast event, where 100+ attendees from across the region will join us to hear from the council and local businesses – Orbit Developments, Music Magpie, Grassroots Recruitment and international company Starkeys, on the success story that is Stockport.

In preparation for the event, I have been musing about the change that our town centre will see over the next 5 years and it’s safe to say we have a lot to talk about.

2019 will bring the installation of the frame and glazing of the new Stockport Exchange buildings, the conversion of the old Royal Mail sorting office into high end apartments with a huge green wall making a positive statement for the A6.

Further conversion of properties across the town centre into residential space will provide well over 500 units for the growing residential scene – something which is likely to draw those young professionals out of the city centre.

The change in demographics is key to ensure future success for our town centre via disposable income, an appetite for good food and drink and a need for a buzzing social scene provided the by latest bars and Food Hall in the Old Town.

This once ignored town centre is reaping the rewards of a local council and stakeholder partnerships that are working together with local businesses to deliver a private and publicly regenerated town centre.

We’re so proud of the change that has already happened, but maybe the most exciting times for Stockport are yet to come?

It’s hard to imagine how different the town centre will be in 5 years’ time, but maybe government bodies will be creating case studies on the positive economic change in Stockport as they do now with Altrincham.

So, come and take a look at what the town centre can offer and put perceptions to one side and see the true Stockport story unfolding and perhaps even become a part of it."

Stockport - 2018 Review

Rhys Owen, Leasing Director, Orbit Developments, discusses the change in Stockport over 2018 and how the positive progress of regeneration will continue into 2019.

“As 2018 ended, it was a natural time to look back at events of the past 12 months.

It’s been an exciting year for Stockport town centre and I fully expect 2019 to continue to deliver positive progress.

I was reading an article by Caroline Baker of commercial property agents Cushman & Wakefield, who made some very pertinent comments about the future of Greater Manchester’s town centres.

She observed that… ‘the focus needs to be on those towns that have great connectivity, access to jobs and local services combined with unique assets which make them stand out – such as a great stock of architectural buildings, access to countryside, attractive waterways or a programme of events which attract a wide range of visitors.’

She continued: ‘Where partners come together and set a new vision for these towns with a passion and commitment to work together, transformation will happen… and where this starts to happen bars and restaurants follow and our towns will be vibrant again.’

Ok, so our architecture can be sketchy in parts, but our Old Town is the envy of many other town centres, and our waterway is being far from maximised, for now at least.

However, I challenge anyone not to see Stockport as a prime example of a best placed and well-connected town centre and in a great position to benefit from the changing world we live in.

There are numerous groups and individuals that are investing huge amounts of time, effort and money, including ourselves, to contribute to the town’s regeneration. Together we will continue to bring new ideas to the table and create events to drive footfall.

And still new businesses keep coming into Stockport, seeing the benefits and bringing new jobs, which plays its part in delivering an exciting future for everyone.”

Starting to reap the rewards

Rhys Owen, Leasing Director, Orbit Developments, discusses how Stockport are beginning to attract businesses looking to relocate to a thriving town.

With the recent investment in Stockport starting to reap rewards, it’s becoming clear that the town has always been a sleeping giant when you look at Greater Manchester as a whole.

Four years ago Orbit had vacant office space in the town centre which could accommodate over 1,700 people. Now 80% of that space is full and many of those companies have relocated from outside the borough.

As a reflection of the new types of businesses coming in, the standard of general office space has been greatly improved and it’s something that we as Orbit have strived to do with our own portfolio.

But why are businesses being attracted to Stockport?

Our road and rail links are second to none, which in turn provides a recruitment catchment area, easily competing with some major national locations.

The steps being taken to improve traffic flow and journey times on the A6 are playing a key role in making the town centre and the surrounding district centres easier to access, which also helps the area’s appeal.

Recent physical changes continue to draw positive comment, especially from those who arrive in Stockport for the first time in a while. They are being pleasantly surprised by the new welcome that awaits.

Few town centres have experienced the significant positive repositioning development that Stockport has. Ours is evolving and that’s not something happening everywhere.

The growth of residential development in the town centre will bring many new people in and provide a changed demographic that retailers and businesses require for the town to prosper further.

The Stockport business community is the envy of many other local towns and regions with ideas being copied by others, which is a clear sign of success. We need to keep going.

On the right path

Rhys Owen, Leasing Director, Orbit Developments, discusses Stockport's giant leap forward after recent investments.

The past month seems to have been a real celebration of how far Stockport has come in the last few years.

My recent meetings and conversations with companies currently based in London and South Cheshire looking for property in the town centre, have illustrated that the new leisure schemes in Stockport have delivered the much-needed facilities employees and businesses were craving.

Even negative novelty awards have done nothing to dampen the positive spirit of businesses in the town centre!

My role within Orbit enables me to speak honestly to current and prospective customers about everything that has changed within Stockport and I find positive word of mouth marketing is often more powerful and candid than anything else.

As an ambassador for Stockport, I see it as my responsibility to promote the positive changes to any new office occupiers in the town centre.

Armed with the right tools at our disposal however, it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure Stockport is seen in the right light to drive further changes.
Naturally, property plays a key part in the success of a commercial town centre and we are always talking with and listening to the needs of businesses in the area.

We’ve been very encouraged to see businesses consistently looking at and choosing Stockport over locations like Manchester city centre.
They are now even more aware of the noise this major town just one train stop from Manchester, is making. Awareness is increasing; perceptions are changing.

In honour of the progress made to date, Stockport BID are planning a new Art Trail for 2019 with giant frogs being placed around the town centre. 

So, Manchester might be famous for its association with the mighty bee but the buzz is happening in Stockport. Watch this space as our town takes a giant leap into an exciting future.

Stockport businesses welcome 'confident' new town centre and call for momentum to be maintained

An influential group of business leaders met this week to debate Stockport’s progress as a vibrant commercial and growing residential hub and called for momentum to be maintained.

Hosted by the town’s leading commercial landlord, Orbit Developments, at its recently refurbished 1 St Peter’s Square over 70 members of the networking and publishing group Marketing Stockport expressed their views on the last few years of progress and the next steps for the town.

Leasing Director Rhys Owen from Orbit Developments chaired a panel of some of Stockport’s most vocal supporters – Gorvins Solicitors Christian Mancier, Clarke Nicklin’s Brian Bradley, MD of Grassroots Recruitment Caroline Patten and Stockport BID Manager Paul Taylor.

Meeting at the heart of a visibly better invested town centre the mood was upbeat and positive in marked contrast to business panel sessions of a few years ago.
Rhys Owen commented:  “Back then we would not be even having a conversation about coming into the town centre to shop or enjoy a night out and it was a struggle to sell the wider town centre to businesses, but now all that has changed.”

Caroline Patten of Grassroots Recruitment agreed: “People have seen improvements, perceptions are definitely going in the right direction and people want to talk about Stockport and the benefits of joining a business here.”

“We are also attracting candidates with a few years’ experience looking for longer-term opportunities rather than people just starting out or coming back to Stockport for a quieter commute. We are increasingly competing with Manchester now for those skilled professionals who can get career opportunity in a reinvigorated Stockport offering better quality restaurants, leisure and social amenities. It’s exciting to see.”

The station was marked out as a particular highlight of the £multi-million investment programme. Clarke Nicklin’s Brian Bradley said: “It’s now a bright, modern gateway to the town with striking glass buildings and smart hotel facilities that we are proud to use as meeting points for clients who live out of the area. It’s a great welcome to the town.”

The growth in refurbished or new build residential property was also pin-pointed as a significant development and one that would contribute to a changing town centre culture. Caroline Patten again. “It changes the personality of a place because the town is not just for shopping or working – it’s for living, which then drives change in public realm, services and activities to create a thriving community hub.”

Nobody was under any illusions that the job was done and all acknowledged that the next few years would be even more significant.

Paul Taylor from Totally Stockport, the town centre’s BID campaign, funded by town centre businesses, said there were exciting developments in the pipeline not least in greater WIFI access.

He said: “This is brilliant for people to use wherever they are in the town, but also provides invaluable data on what people are doing when they come in, how they flow around the place, which will help us attract more businesses and shape ideas for events.”

All agreed that in future a focus on better defining key areas of the town like business (Stockport Exchange), heritage (Stockport Old Town), retail (Merseyway) and leisure (Redrock) and signposting between them – even perhaps colour coding zones – would help people have a richer experience of everything on offer.

Reflecting on the progress made to date the BID has devised a 30-strong Frog statue art trail entitled a Giant Leap Forward. Paul Taylor outlined the idea which was to offer sponsorship of the frogs to businesses and organisations, position them around the town in a Trail to be explored and then auction them for charity. “It feels just the right time to be acknowledging how far we have come in a fun, engaging and entertaining way and looking forward.”

Jo Shippen MD of merchandising business Hatters Promotions, also remarked that advocacy from the people in the room – in work and at home with families was crucial. “People can see buildings and environmental improvement, but it’s word of mouth that will continue to make the most difference.”

Summing up Rhys Owen from Orbit said that ensuring people joined up their thinking and efforts and communicated well would be crucial in the next few years. “We have changed perceptions of Stockport for the better, without doubt, and people are now being drawn to its offer which makes it so much easier to convert them into business tenants, or new retailers, or residents or just visitors from out of town. But we need to keep going with all<

What's next for Stockport?

Rhys Owen, Leasing Director, Orbit Developments, discusses how Stockport needs to continue to grow.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last five years talking about what’s coming next in Stockport town centre.

With the major retail, leisure and public realm works now complete and a number of high street level changes taking place, it is now our job to ensure there is a strong and continued momentum going forward.

BBC Radio 5 live recently interviewed Nick Johnson of Altrincham Market fame, about the effect new foodie-inspired events are having on our town centres.

We all know about the success story of Altrincham Market Hall and the positive effect the market regeneration has had on the wider town. And not just on perceptions and footfall, but also on the reduction of the empty retail units immediately surrounding the market hall.

This is something Stockport has taken inspiration from and is in the process of implementing a similar scheme into the Produce Hall. But it is important to recognise that food markets are not the only saviour of the high street.

While they undoubtedly have a huge positive impact – and could justifiably claim to be the catalyst for many other positive developments - we need to be thinking about the next step. I do wonder what inspirational ideas are flowing behind the scenes that don’t involve filling our stomachs!

A successful town centre needs so much more than markets alone and whatever the solution is, it needs to be very much targeted at the prosperous folk living in the suburbs just a few miles from Stockport town centre.

We need to bring these wealthy families back into the centre with a variety of not-to-be-missed experiences. While strong foundations have been laid, there is more to do. The next three years could be the most important in Stockport’s recent history.

Record Breakers

Rhys Owen, Leasing Director, Orbit Developments, discusses how Stockport is attracting more and more businesses to the town centre.

You can’t help but notice the negative press Stockport’s retail sector has recently attracted, but take a look at the office sector of the commercial property market and it’s a drastically different story.

The last five years have been record-breaking for office lettings in Stockport town centre, which indicates the level of confidence businesses have in choosing to relocate here.

On average, the town centre would usually see around 44,000 sq ft of office space let each year, enough to fill the first building at Stockport Exchange.
But 2013, 2014 and 2017 all saw figures well in excess of this. The vast majority of space was taken by companies moving into the area and then expanding.

And it’s not just deals completed at shiny new developments like Stockport Exchange. This development accounted for a bumper year in 2017, but the vast majority of activity stemmed from our own town centre 12-building strong portfolio.

Since 2013, Orbit Developments has let the equivalent of three Stockport Exchanges, with over 1500 jobs saved or created as a result.

Witnessing this kind of growth first hand and the quality of businesses we can now attract prompts further belief in the successful future of the town centre.
This belief has been the driving force behind the investment we have made over the last five years in our Stockport property portfolio, and our current refurbishment project at 1 St Peters Square has notably received greater investment than any other of our town centre buildings.

Its significant refresh will again play a role in the positive cycle of success eg attract new businesses to choose Stockport, bring inward investment, job creation and inspire more improvements in the town centre, including hard-pressed retail.

Message starting to get through

Rhys Owen, Leasing Director, Orbit Developments, discusses that things are looking up for Stockport town centre.

As a property owner across the North West, we are well placed to see commercial letting activity first-hand and there are very few parts of the area that are seeing changes of the size and scale of Stockport town centre.

There are some significant physical differences already, but there are further improvements to come and to areas that will broaden the changing direction of the town centre and the retail/leisure offer.

The message of change is starting to reach those that need to hear it and the constant positive news stories that come from the food and drink venues in the town centre are just some of the ways that show the journey Stockport is now on.

Foodie Friday has long extolled the virtues of Stockport and its unrivalled success together with cool shout outs from The Blossoms rock band continue to shine an exciting light on the town centre.

Key parts of the centre are so close to being an amazing asset we just need the proposed funds for the marketplace and surrounding areas to be released.

The messages need to be stronger though.

At Orbit we continue to talk about the town centre’s improving community to local and national, even international companies. This face to face endorsement is working, converting interest into new jobs, footfall and spending.

To keep up with demand we have recently refurbished our property at 1 St Peter’s Square, offering quality office space in line with what new business owners want and supporting the wider ambitions of Stockport. Things are definitely moving in the right direction.

Stockport needs to support independent stores

Rhys Owen, Leasing Director, Orbit Developments, shares his thoughts on why Stockport  should support the independent stores.

As part of my role as an ambassador for business in Stockport, I have gone out of my way to research the various initiatives and grants available to incentivise companies to relocate into the town centre.

It appears that a large proportion of the grants are aimed at attracting new, independent retailers into the area.
These types of retailers bring variety to a town centre. Visitors get bored of seeing ‘carbon copy’ shopping centres with the same line up of chain stores and products on offer. Instead, their time can be spent discovering unique parts of the town with character such as the market place.

After visiting a successful independent Stockport retailer recently, I was frustrated to hear about their struggle when trying to open their first store in the town centre.

I was under the impression guidance and assistance was available to all retailers with a sensible business plan, yet this store had experienced multiple barriers put in their way throughout their journey.
They were initially told the money in the ‘pot’ for start-ups had run out, next they were informed that they didn’t qualify for another grant, in spite of seeming to tick all the relevant boxes.

After a quick period of success, they were then invited to meet senior representatives at the council to discuss how the process could have been made easier and what other funding was available for their growing business. But they haven’t heard anything since, leaving them feeling very deflated and frustrated.

What kind of message does this give to new start-ups willing to give Stockport a chance? What quality businesses are we missing out on because they faced one too many barriers?

If we want to compete with the thriving towns like Altrincham and really push our unique shopping offer, we need to review the process for new retailers joining the town centre and make their journey an easy one.

Stockport...needs selling better

As Councillor Sid Lloyd commented in the Manchester Evening News last week ‘Stockport…needs selling better’. This is a sentiment I couldn’t agree more with. But what is our aim for the selling of Stockport?

Surely this is to spread the strong positives of our town centre to those living within the whole borough and then across Greater Manchester and ultimately the whole country.

Despite living in Stockport and having a vested interest in the town, I was unaware of recent family-focused events and activities taking place in the town centre over the weekend. If I’m missing the offers when I am actively reading and searching for the information, then who else are we missing and what effect does this have on footfall?

Talking with friends at the weekend at our local Cheadle Makers Market, they were unaware of Foodie Friday, unaware of two new hotels in the town centre, unaware of the full scale of changes taking place in our town centre. Suffice to say they are now fully informed and we look forward to a foray to July’s Foodie Friday.

As a business, Orbit has invested in event sponsorship across the town centre for many years and we have enjoyed successful collaborations with Foodie Friday and the Headlander Festival. However, we have found that most events struggle to make any impact outside the immediate area.

We have a number of new businesses in the town centre now in addition to two new hotels, so to help overcome some of the communication challenges it would be an easy win to target their visitors and flag up these great initiatives.