After five years of work and detailed planning, the renovated Norman Centre mall seems to be slowly bringing back the attractiveness associated with shopping in the capital.
While business has yet to reach top pace, some store operators in the popular shopping centre are expecting a turnaround.
And with many of them reporting increased business from tourists, the store owners believed things would only get better as the island continued to welcome more visitors.
Construction on the Norman Centre shopping mall initially started around April 2011. Over time different sections of the mall reopened. However, the entire mall officially reopened its doors just over a month ago.
Those storeowners who spoke with Barbados TODAY gave the modern mall two thumbs up, saying its appearance alone was attracting customers and encouraging them to spend.
Yancy King, owner of Overflow Boutique, has been in business for the past eight years. However, after operating from Swan Street some years ago, King decided to leave The City two years ago.
She returned in April this year, but this time at the Norman Centre mall, and the clothing storeowner could not have been happier.
“From the time I moved here business was better. It doesn’t matter if the traffic does not look heavy when the days come, but you are getting what you are supposed to get when the days come, so I am liking it,” she said.
“To me I expect great things to happen, especially with the Christmas season coming up and Independence. We are expecting to do better. We are on Broad Street and the people are in love with the mall and the things in the mall. So it is getting better for us,” she stressed.
King said a good mix of tourists and locals shopped at her store.
“So it has been a good experience for us,” she said.
Manager of Norman Centre Debbie Lashley said the reception from customers and storeowners since the reopening of the 40-year-old shopping mall, had been positive.
Describing Norman Centre as an iconic location in the local landscape, Lashley said the businesses that were now housed there were of the highest standard.
“People are now feeding off what we are trying to create and I would say the interest is definitely there,” Lashley told Barbados TODAY.
“Of course the economy has impacted the rate at which we have re-opened and become fully tenanted again, but I would like to believe that the relationship and trust that we have rebuilt will continue to grow from strength to strength.”
There are currently nine stores in the three-storey building, including Cooke’s Finest, a company specializing mainly in pastries.
Owner Caleb Cooke told Barbados TODAY business had been slow since he moved there in April because not many people knew the mall had reopened or that his business was located there.
However, he said feedback from those who had visited suggested it would not be long before business improves.
“As you can see from this mall it has great potential. When I [first] walked in here I honestly did not think I was in Barbados. I thought I was somewhere overseas because the renovations and how the décor looks, it looks like an international mall,” he said.
The upscale Mugs ‘N Suds café has operated from Norman Centre for only two weeks. Supervisor Jamie Leacock said business had been “pretty good”, with a mix of locals and visitors patronizing the cafeteria.
“Business in Bridgetown has been pretty good. We see a lot of tourists and a lot of the locals have been here. A lot of tourists have been frequenting this area more so though and they really like the [products on offer]. So far it has been good in terms of tourists coming in,” Leacock said.
“When the [winter tourist] season starts back, hopefully we will be having more tourists in and it will become a bigger brand so that we can open other outlets. That is what we are hoping for.”
Manager of the clothing and apparel store Raw Barbados George Mayers said although business in The City was “relatively quiet”, he remained optimistic.
At the end of July the entrepreneurs rebranded the three-year-old store that was then Converse, and expanded the range of brands. This, Mayers said, was a deliberate attempt to sustain the business that currently employs five people.
“Business on the whole is down but we are creating specials . . . so we are trying to do things to encourage people to buy because there are a lot of different players in the Bridgetown area that are also carrying the back to school shoes and so on. So everybody is competing for a piece of the pie but we are very hopeful,” he said.
Sales manager of Standard appliance and furniture store Alexia Halliday said Norman Centre had great potential.
Describing the new location as modern and contemporary, Halliday said customers were excited to visit the mall, and it was more convenient for more young business professionals in The City.
“The outlook is very positive. I do know that a number of companies have been moving out of Bridgetown but I do think there is a market for stores in Bridgetown. We have a lot of professionals working in town. It will always still be convenient,” she stressed.