Local authorities and voices from across the industry gathered at The Postal Museum last night for Gleeds challenge debate, Changing Places. Milligan’s Creative Navigator, Paul Hanegraaf joined the panel for a discussion on what the high street needs to do in order to keep up with today’s evolving retail.

Paul shared six key thoughts, making a call to local authorities and drawing attention to the control they hold over policy, building control, planning and investment.

  • Consumer: The tech enabled consumer is all powerful and fluid in their demands. They want the full line of choice, more time to browse and enjoy the impulse of traditional shopping.
  • Change: Retailers are facing massive challenges to transform their platforms. They must add immersive experience, engagement, learning and they must transform their settings and merchandise more swiftly.
  • Time: The pace of consumer and retailer change is challenging for real estate. Analogue disrupted digital and now digital disrupts digital… movements are counteracted by anti-movements. Change is constant.
  • People: It is people that make place, destination and experience so it is a behavioural and sociological challenge… and to sustain it, there must be an operating entity. Place making is not trees and benches and streetlights… it’s people, what they do and how they behave.
  • The New Brand & Localism: There are well over 150,000 new brands in the UK – go find them! New, emerging brands, platforms, services and offers must be wholly embraced as they are transforming consumer expectation. (There have been 4.6m new companies started at Companies House in the past eight years… if you assume a 30% success rate, that means in the past eight years there will have been 1.38m new succeeding businesses that is 3,000 a week for eight years! If 15% are retail that is 500 new retail brands a week for 8 years so there’s something every exciting happening on a local level.)
  • No Silver Bullet, only unique, bespoke solutions: There is no simple or singular answer… Milligan don’t have the answer, no one really does… the key is knowing the right questions to ask along the partnership journey to the answer.


“It’s with vigour and excitement that the Milligan team is approaching the New Year, seeing it as a welcome watershed to turn insight into action following the dramatic happenings impacting our sector in the late 2010s.

“Retail in some quarters has become a toxic word linked to failure, empty shops, unattractive high streets and shopping centres. To us at Milligan it is still the world’s number one leisure pursuit. It is a dynamic, constantly evolving business engaging with its lifeblood, the customer. In the last few decades there has been a trend to institutionalise and commoditise retail which has resulted in a ‘cookie cutter’ approach to our retail places. This is undoubtedly a race to the bottom with no long-term winners. Business rates, the internet and customers’ demands for a better experience have subsequently had a devastating effect on the physical retail landscape. The status quo has been destroyed and out of the ashes are arising some incredible opportunities that the retailers and developers of tomorrow are seizing.

“Great retailers and developers know it’s about a true insight into their customers’ needs and wants, creating an experience that, as necessity matches and at best exceeds this expectation. It has always been the most important thing to get right and maybe today the market is starting to rediscover it.”

John Milligan, CEO Milligan.

John Milligan, CEO and Melanie Taylor, Head of Retail and Relations look back at what we set out to achieve and how we managed Camden in the early days – listening to its customers and working within its authentic heart, alongside the traders.

John Milligan;

“We’re in the business of creating places where people are inspired to shop and Camden Lock Market was one of the most inspiring retail places we had seen anywhere in the world. We met and got to know the owners and original developers of the market, Bill Fulford and Peter Wheeler. We were incredibly excited when in 2012, as they were contemplating retirement, they agreed to sell the market to Milligan.

“Our vision was to create an entrepreneurial community around a thriving mix of market stalls, independent shops and businesses. With workshops, studios, galleries and cultural venues providing the infrastructure to support and grow a theatre of stalls, boutiques, cafés and restaurants we would attract more visitors. In turn, more visitors would attract more creative start-ups and grow a business community.

“As well as respecting and embracing the architecture and culture of Camden Lock, we sought to:

  • Improve flexibility and options available to entry-level operators
  • Encourage a more diverse offer, looking for uniqueness and quality
  • Add more workspace and expansion opportunities for operators
  • Reconsider circulation considering all trading pitches
  • Provide more shelter from inclement weather
  • Improve accessibility and the link with the Regent’s Canal and High Street
  • Create more seating for visitors and address a lack of capacity during peak trading

“We learnt so much during our ownership and management of Camden market that affects the way we approach our future projects. In particular, that a strong inspirational yet deliverable vision will engage the community and stakeholders and can move mountains of negativity and obstacles.”

Melanie Taylor;

“Running alongside our extensive research, was our ongoing commitment to the management of the existing trader community and attracting talented individuals to Camden Lock by offering them a range of retail opportunities.

“The existing operators were keen to understand the new owners’ plans! Longstanding agreements with retailers (rather than stall holders) under the old tenant-landlord Act meant that most operators were on historic leases with an automatic right to renew – a fundamental reason why there had been little change within the market for so long. We renegotiated the leases of every single operator to an ‘outside the Act’ lease, giving us the control, flexibility and freedom to make the required large scale changes, the opportunity to reposition, refresh and redevelop while enabling the operators to thrive on negotiated and appropriate turnover rents.

“In management terms, the biggest win for us was taking on an inhouse Market Manager with extensive experience of markets and market operators.  Jane would liaise with all the operators’ day to day basis – she understood their challenges and spoke their language. Part of our Market Manager’s role was to look after the needs of this unique collection of operators. Often, what they found most useful and valuable was business support and guidance covering everything from how to effectively rotate their product to how to serve customers and it was delivered via events, seminars and one to ones.

“Camden is a destination with rich heritage and character, and we did not want to change what was the essence of the success of the market.  However, the research highlighted a need for more quality product. It would be a place for emerging, independent, incubator brands to find a platform and start building their customer base. Anyone we brought into Camden Lock had to be unique and offer the market quality, difference and excitement. It became a thriving hub for designers and makers fresh from college, students and start-ups trading alongside operators who had been there for a considerable amount of time.

Camden Lock would be able to offer them a range of retail opportunities from incubator units fitted out and ready to accept their fixtures and fittings to small unit stores.  A talented occupier would be able to see a progression from ‘stall to store’, to see Camden Lock as a long-term opportunity and a steppingstone to grow their business.”

In Back to the Future Part III, Paul Hanegraaf describes the physical changes and discusses some of the details behind Camden which have informed CreativeTrade.

“In my new role at Milligan, I’ve been struck by the length and breadth of projects and expertise collected here over the years. Before joining, I was well aware of Milligan’s reputation for innovative thinking but I hadn’t fully appreciated some of the challenges overcome, commercial successes and bespoke approaches all of which now make up a rich and insightful bank of knowledge.

“Those team members who repositioned Maremagnum in Barcelona, sold the MetQuarter delivering significant returns for investors and helped shape CenterParcs’ and Camden Lock Market’s customer experience into what it is today, are still here. Thanks to these successes they are fully equipped to take on the challenges our industry is now faced with and to maximise the sweet spots where retail, leisure and experience collide. Strengthened with my own experience of working on major regeneration developments for both the public and private sectors, we are providing clients and partners with guidance and solutions on a range of buildings, shopping centres, and town centres. We are finding our combined experience, cross-sector knowledge and future-facing insights is giving them the reassurance that we can find the right, bespoke solutions for each project.

“Over the coming months we’ll be bringing you bitesized articles and new content which look back at the exceptional Milligan track record. ‘Back to the Future’ voiced by different members of the Milligan team, will recount the learnings our team has gathered over a series of retail, leisure, local authority, residential and mixed-use developments and how we now apply them to our future thinking. I’ll also be dipping in to my own experiences over the last 15 years working on major projects in Barnsley, Bath, Belfast, Guildford, Newport, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Sheffield.

“We will bring to life, the six pillars of our approach:

  1. We recognise that everything starts and ends with understanding people
  2. We create place-specific, bespoke solutions
  3. We continually seek new ways to deliver value
  4. We ensure that the mix of uses enliven the space and build the brand
  5. We see things through from concept to execution
  6. We earn trust through speaking plainly and honestly


“Stay tuned to our social channels to follow the series:


Twitter “

Stuart Harris, COO.

Milligan’s COO, Stuart Harris is donning his cycle helmet and lycra this weekend as he prepares to cycle over 500km through the South of France to this year’s MAPIC. The ride is organised by Club Peloton and aligned with a number of charity partners. The main beneficiary, Coram is the UK’s oldest children’s charity and has been transforming the lives of vulnerable children for 275 years.

Stuart said; “This is a brilliant challenge for a really worthwhile cause. I’m not an everyday cyclist so this has meant three months of hard training, although it’s made easier by the fact you are constantly reminding yourself that you’re raising money which will transform children’s lives. We’ve got three days riding ahead of us starting in Le Puy En Velay and ending in Cannes covering over 520 km with nearly 8,500m of climbing!”

Stuart will fly to Lyon before commencing the route along with nearly 50 other cyclists from Le Puy En Velay, aiming to arrive in Cannes on Tuesday to meet colleagues Mike Anderson and Xavi Alemany who are also attending the conference.

It’s not too late to sponsor Stuart  https://my.race-nation.co.uk/sponsorship/entry/230623

The ‘IKEA Design’ concept store at Milligan development Zubiarte, Bilbao is going from strength to strength. Less than a year after opening, IKEA has further committed to the scheme. It is looking to expand its unique home design concept to further enhance the customer experience and meet customer’s needs, creating an area close to the car park where shoppers can return to collect orders, after creating their bespoke room designs alongside design specialists in-store.

IKEA is in the middle of a big transition to expand beyond its out of town warehouse model, to smaller stores in city centres. The design concept which majors on having IKEA experts on hand to assist customers in every aspect of creating their perfect living space also offers home visits as part of this consultation. The Swedish furniture giant opened more city stores than flagship stores last year in a move which reflects changes in shopping habits and the desire for more convenience.

Xavi Alemany, Director Asset Management for Milligan Spain said; “Zubiarte is well located and attracts a wealthy demographic of shopper. Our customers want great service, convenience, a personal approach and good value, so it’s easy to see why this new generation of IKEA is doing so well here”.

IKEA, Zubiarte opened in December 2018, after the €8 million refurbishment of Zubiarte.


Milligan Chairman, Rupert Clarke spoke on the panel discussion at the RICS Q3 UK Commercial Property Market launch recently. Unsurprisingly, the conversation turned to the state of retail, where Rupert shared the following insights and viewpoints:


“There is no question that the historic retail real estate business model needs to change dramatically at every level. Historic retail real estate business practices are not fit for purpose in the fast evolving retail and town centre environment. The mass market approach to developing, leasing, managing, operating and owning retail assets needs fundamental change. Additionally the professional skills and expertise to achieve this need to be reorientated around the customer and the customer experience.


“One of the best examples of sustainable retail development, leasing, managing, operating and owning retail assets is in the Outlet Centre sector which has substantially outperformed the rest of the retail market and where the relationship between owner and occupier is highly incentivised to be collaborative, generating and maintaining an exciting and fresh customer experience.


“Apart from a desperate need for a complete reinvention of the owner, occupier, operator and consumer focus, if towns and cities are not to have their economic prospects and future dragged down by deserted retail ghettos, there also needs to be a far more realistic approach taken to underwriting sustainable retail real estate values so that regeneration becomes viable, preferably sooner rather than later. At current values many town centres will not attract much needed new reinvestment capital until the situation on the ground has deteriorated even further.”


Rupert has been Chairman at Milligan since 2012. He holds a number of Exec and Non-Exec roles and is the ex-CEO of JLL Corporate Finance and Hermes. He brings with him over thirty years of real estate experience.