Outgoing boss at Welwyn Garden City's Howard Centre reflects on challenges

PUBLISHED: 12:00 05 October 2014

Howard Centre Manager Peter Brooks

Howard Centre Manager Peter Brooks


The manager who has been at the helm at Welwyn Garden City's Howard Centre for nearly 10 years has stepped down.

Peter Brooks, who since November 2004 has led the mall through the severe recession starting in autumn 2008, and the growth of online shopping, has retired just before his 65th birthday.

Reflecting on the changes he has overseen, Mr Brooks told the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “The face of retailing has changed radically.

“The growth of internet shopping has seen an increasing proportion of sales move away from traditional high street shops, and those business that have continue to prosper have become multi-channel retailers with online and over-the-counter sales.

“The recession also made a big impact, putting paid to many well-known high street names like Woolworth and Comet and leaving lots of vacant premises, as well as forcing those surviving to operate with much lower staff levels and tighter cost controls.

“The space requirements of retailers have changed, with fashion brands wanting bigger branches, which are more cost-
effective to operate, but less of them.”

He said the changing face of retail had been a challenge for the Howard Centre to respond to.

Mr Brooks said: “This has been a particular problem for the Howard Centre, which opened in 1990, because the mix of shop sizes includes too many smaller units, a problem the landlord is currently addressing.”

Mr Brooks, who will continue as chairman of the Welwyn Garden City Town Centre Partnership until its AGM next month, is succeeded at the Howard Centre by Paul Haynes, who has experience running a shopping centre in Letchworth.

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