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.


Stockport's hidden gems

Rhys Owen, Leasing Director, Orbit Developments, shares his views on how Stockport town centre needs to connect together.

When it comes to marketing our properties, I like to eat, sleep and breathe an area to fully understand what it has to offer and with that comes a regular amble around the many corners of the town centre.

On a recent wander with colleagues we started off at the newly developed Stockport Exchange.

Whilst the changes around the train station have been well received, it was noted how the route from the train station down to the neighbouring bus station was very unwelcoming, taking the shine off the changes around the station approach.

We know there is a £40m redevelopment plan for the bus station and this will bring improvements - new shops, cafes and amenities - to the terminal.

However, it needs to be recognised that improving areas in ‘silos’ and not thinking about the connecting journeys will still leave a poor impression in visitors’ minds.

Another area showing signs of this silo thinking is Stockport Old Town.

Despite exciting changes bubbling under the surface, the hotly debated Produce Hall in the Marketplace doesn’t show signs of any upcoming changes, and whilst Underbanks and lower Hillgate have some quality independent retailers they aren’t grouped together, just interspersed with boarded up shops, which left me feeling frustrated.

Again, instead of thinking you’ve discovered the ‘Northern Quarter’ of Stockport, you’re left a bit disheartened by the disappointing journey in between each store.

It’s been said many times before, but we need to work on linking Stockport together and ensuring our visitors leave Stockport after having a positive experience.

We have all the pieces of the jigsaw, but they need to be put together in the right way.

Signposting for Town success

Rhys Owen, Leasing Director, Orbit Developments, shares his thoughts on how Stockport can accelerate its success.

When looking at other local town centres such as Altrincham and Bury, who have both made huge strides in turning around their town centre offer, I see one thing in common that Stockport lacks, which is a well-defined and manageable town centre.

The true boundary of our town centre has always been open to debate, a question the BID spent some time considering when putting together its initial proposal.

There are parts of the town centre which have benefitted from significant investment, not only in cash, but in time and resources too.

This has brought visible improvements to the public realm areas immediately surrounding developments, in addition to healthy marketing budgets providing scheme branding, identity creation and regular communication to local stakeholders.

I have had a number of positive comments from friends and business contacts about these improvements. However they all note how these fantastic new developments still fail to guide and entice them on a full journey from one side of the town centre to the other.

Clear and engaging signposting is a key element of what could link the various parts of the town centre and encourage people to take some time to explore exactly what Stockport has to offer.

We know it is already fairly disjointed and spread over a greater area than many other town centres, and there is the added challenge of various hills and steps as seen in our local topography.

We should look to towns who tell a story through their street signage, in order to get some inspiration for our own signposting challenges.

If we can get visitors moving from one ‘zone’ to another then success is sure to follow.

Building on Stockport's strengths

Rhys Owen, Leasing Director, Orbit Developments, shares his views on the changing face of Stockport's high street and how artisan markets will help boost the town.

It’s a shame to see a high street brand leave the town, but the reality is that if those stores weren’t appealing to customers, and weren’t attractive in appearance or product range then is it a surprise?

There’s a general feeling that some brands have almost abandoned their Stockport branches. They’ve been left looking like temporary stores, without investment, refurbishment or slight improvements, despite other stores in similar towns undergoing  modernisation.

In order to attract shoppers into the town centre, we need more than just the ‘brand name’, we need full investment into the outlets themselves. Retail across the country, if not the world, is changing. Consumers see shopping as a chore, they are looking for experiences.

Consumers want unique and ‘Instagrammable’ products and stores to show friends and family what they are doing at the weekend.

Markets have made a return, but with a twist. They are attractive Artisan markets, food markets or craft markets, stocked full of products that are unique and can’t be bought readily online.

And this is one of Stockport town centre’s strengths that we should take advantage of. Our independent offer is strong and growing and there is a real opportunity to utilise the aesthetically pleasing areas of Underbanks and the Market Place in order to develop and grow this offer.

With independent retailers comes a need for fresh thinking and flexibility is key here in order to help the retail community. We need to create opportunities for start-up outlets maybe through pop-up stores or incentives on vacant space.

Proud to be an ambassador to the town

Rhys Owen, Leasing Director, Orbit Developments shares his thoughts on the changing face of Stockport.

The saying goes that the best form of advertising is via positive word of mouth. So, it makes sense that following recent changes and investment in Stockport town centre, the council is underway with its next marketing campaign – using advocates to drive forward the message that ‘Stockport is changing’.

Recently, Stockport launched two projects; the first being a place marketing campaign ‘Stockport. Change Here.’ with Creative Concern and the second its Town Centre Ambassador Project, to which I am very pleased to say I was invited to join. 

The ambassador programme encourages local stakeholders who are passionate and regularly engage with the town to actively promote the changing fortunes of the centre.

As the largest commercial property landlord in Stockport, we represent the opinions of many businesses here in the town to the Council, but equally we have a responsibility to share the recent changes that have taken place to our customers and pitch Stockport’s changing landscape to new occupiers. 
Recently I had a challenge on my hands with two companies looking at the town centre. Neither had ventured into our historic town for over 10 years and were blissfully unaware of the changes taking place.

Suffice to say, a short drive around the town helped them to see the changes and I gave my little pitch on behalf of our town centre.
With help via marketing material and the new updated Stockport prospectus, ambassadors like myself have been provided with great tools to tell the story of how Stockport is moving into the future.

I’m sure these positive messages are being communicated by all of Stockport's business community and myself and my fellow ambassadors are not alone in spreading the news.

Everyday Loans on the up with new office move in town centre

The UK’s largest branch-based lender of unsecured loans to sub-prime borrowers has reconfirmed its commitment to Stockport town centre after moving its Stockport branch from the market place to Orbit Development’s Beckwith House on Wellington Road South.

The management team behind Everyday Loans opted for the new 2,337 sq ft office accommodation to help to deliver an ambitious business plan for 2018 and expand the customer base across the UK.
Beckwith House will provide office space for the team of five team who head up the day-to-day running of the Stockport operation – part of a 53-strong national network - - with a further 12 branches expected to open in the next 12 months.

Due to the extensive network of branches, most Everyday Loan customers are less than five miles away from an outlet which provides an opportunity for clients to have a personal conversation with an advisor – a big USP when compared with competitors within the sector.

A face to face lending approach in the sub-prime sector is unusual, but Everyday Loans has made it work with spectacular application conversion rates and high levels of customer satisfaction.

The personal approach enables long term, meaningful relationships with customers, providing a product that meets their needs, in turn generating repeat business from satisfied clients.

Jon Wiggins, Managing Director of Everyday Loans, commented:

“We take the time to understand our customer’s needs on a human level which online processes and algorithms can miss. Where our competitors can’t or won’t go, we establish relationships and lend profitably.”

Jon talked positively of support from Orbit Developments from the on the ground team and also of the importance of making the Stockport move now.

“Beckwith House is the perfect space to base our operations from. It is a professional environment to facilitate the growth we want to achieve whilst simultaneously supporting the branch network which is expanding all the time.”

Leasing Director for Orbit Developments Rhys Owen said: “We are delighted to welcome Everyday Loans to the property. The reception area and work space has been recently refurbished, which provides high quality office space for our customers to enjoy. We wish the team the very best of luck for their ambitious expansion plans.”

Rhys also commented on the changing landscape of Stockport town centre and the benefits it brings to customers: “Over the past 12 months, we have seen continued growth in the trend for businesses outside the town centre relocating here due to the new developments.”

“Our latest customers Rush Insurance and Mechatech have both come from further afield - Old Trafford and Macclesfield respectively - citing the transformation of the town and its wide variety of amenities as a contributing factor in their decision to relocate.”

Stockport’s centre continues to change for the better with the stylish Berretto Lounge now open and The Gym Group coming in the next few weeks both at the new leisure scheme Redrock. A planning application for the next phase of Stockport Exchange has also been submitted for a new six-storey office building to be developed by 2020, further enhancing the gateway to the town

Fast-growing audio visual business moves into Stockport

Independent AV business Green Monkey has moved into Orbit Development’s Beckwith House in Stockport town centre to support ambitious expansion plans for 2018.

Previously in Reddish, the relocation to the town centre means more convenient travel for employees, a range of amenities at Mersey shopping centre, Redrock and access to The Hub at Regent House, a shared working space and breakout area.

Managing Director Elizabeth Downing decided to relocate Green Monkey after delivering the business’s most successful year in 2017 and to support growth.

Currently working across corporate, education, hospitality and public sectors, Green Monkey has established a strong customer base locally.
They now supply a live video feed solution to Stockport Coroners Court, have provided printed whiteboards to Stockport NHS Foundation’s Stepping Hill Hospital, and installed a Clevertouch and entry management system for Mastercall Healthcare.

They have also worked closely with Stockport-based engineering and design business Piggott and Whitfield, to provide cutting-edge AV solutions for its clients.

The company is also currently engaged in the AV refurbishment of the Manchester branch of HSB Engineering Insurance and the headquarters of locally-based wholesale hairdressing business Alan Howard.

Commenting Elizabeth said: “We operate in the AV industry but are unique in our offering. We have an online store providing low-tech AV and office products such as dry erase paints, wall coverings, noticeboards, whiteboards, projection equipment and other products.”

“Our very first office was actually at Orbit’s property Sovereign House in Cheadle and we dealt with Rhys Owen then too. It’s nice to return to an Orbit building. They have given us a very warm welcome and been extremely helpful with the move.”

“Beckwith House is ideally located for the range of amenities and public transport links which will help us with recruitment in the future.”

Rhys Owen said that it was great to see the progress that Green Monkey had made and that Beckwith would be a platform for further growth.

“It rewarding to see a company that you worked with at the start of their journey grow from strength to strength as Green Monkey have done.”

“There is no better time to be moving into the town centre, with the new Redrock facilities now open nearby and the redevelopment of Stockport train station at Stockport Exchange. We wish them every success for the future.”

Green Monkey is looking for an apprentice to get involved in office administration so please contact them for more information on

Businesses are embracing our changing town

Stockport town centre has seen a lot of change over the past few years and now businesses are actively relocating into the town centre. Rhys Owen, Leasing Director, Orbit Developments shares his thoughts on Stockport transforming into a business hub.

Whilst the face of Stockport town centre has physically changed over the past few years, as a major commercial property landlord in Stockport Orbit has seen an ‘invisible’ shift too, quietly boosting the positive perception of the town centre.

Stockport is presenting itself as a prospering, well connected and forward-thinking town centre, and this has started to show with many of the businesses looking for and taking office space relocating from outside the town centre and the borough.

Over the past 12 months, we have seen continued growth in the trend for businesses outside the centre to move into it, with the likes of Green Monkey AV and Aqua Design both coming from around a mile outside the town centre.

Similarly, Rush Insurance and Mechatech have both come from further afield; Old Trafford and Macclesfield respectively. The companies praised the transformation of the town centre, and its wide variety of amenities was also a contributing factor in their decisions to relocate.
There is another story behind activity in the last 12 months, a continuing trend of growth of existing town centre customers and the recruitment that that comes with it.

There is another story behind activity in the last 12 months, a continuing trend of growth of existing town centre customers and the recruitment that comes with it.

We’ve seen a greater number of customers growing into larger offices such as Grassroots Recruitment, Guardian Education and Safety to Business and they aren’t alone, with Hatters and Bellyflop TV upsizing their office space and taking on new staff to cope with additional workloads.

So, whilst the new developments are a physical reminder of change in Stockport, it’s important we analyse the impact the investments are having on the town and the resulting affect on the businesses being attracted and growing within the town – businesses who will hopefully become Stockport’s biggest advocates.

Stockport has tools for success in 2018

2017 was a fantastic year for Stockport with its continued growth and redevelopment. Rhys Owen, Leasing Director, Orbit Developments shares his thoughts on Stockport continuing its growth in 2018.

"This year has seen major changes, development and highlights in Stockport’s town centre, which will fuel much of the progress 2018 promises.
Planning applications are being developed for the next phase of Stockport Exchange, plans refined for the improved bus interchange and the train station, and there will be visible change too with the completion of some key residential developments, the demolition of the former cinema and the completion of further access works under the TCAP works.

Everywhere you look the media is reporting the changes happening in Stockport, and pleasingly it’s with a positive view.
The noise is reaching other parts of GM and Cheshire and we are seeing Stockport appealing to increasing numbers of businesses from outside the town.
Companies from Macclesfield and Old Trafford are just two of the latest firms to be welcomed into our 12-building strong portfolio in Stockport town centre, having heard about and seen all the changes taking place.

However, we need to be looking ahead to 2018 and starting to put plans in place that will bring something new to our town.
We should take inspiration from other town centres across Greater Manchester and encourage key groups who are driving improvement to visit different locations to pull these ideas together.

Christmas has provided many opportunities and ‘easy wins’ for improving the street scene; festive markets, oversized street props to generate chatter on social media channels and create customer engagement or the improvement of accessibility across the town such as a Christmas train linking the different parts of the town centre."