Centre manager Dionne Moore has never shied away from championing Five Valleys Shopping Centre, but now it has reopened she is confident Stroud’s new-look retail destination will speak for itself – as it joins the nation’s retailers reopening for business.
For Ms Moore and her team, this is not just a chance to get back to doing what they do best, but an opportunity to show-off the impact of some of the £12 million invested in Five Valley’s by owner Dransfield Properties and GFirst LEP.
‘It is exciting – getting everything ready,’ Ms Moore said in the build-up to reopening day, whose two-decades in retail reads like a who’s who of some of its most desirable brands.
‘We have shop-fitters still working while merchandise is going in, staff training going on, there is a real buzz. But this is retail. This is what we love. And this is our D-Day.’
Star attractions are the Five Valley Food Market including Pieminister, Falafel Mama, Bao Ma, Armadeli and more; standalone eateries Curio Loung; as well as high street brands like JoJo Maman Bebe, Home Bargains and Craghoppers – and from Wednesday 14 April 2021, new department store Sanderson’s Boutique.
The new centrepiece store boasts fashion brands including Tommy Hilfiger and Barbour, but also the Cotswolds’ own Holland Cooper – and even a spa.
It will also be two and a half years in the role as the centre manager for Ms Moore, who came to Stroud to take on the daunting challenge of re-inventing the tired Merrywalks centre, a project also backed by GFirst LEP money.
That challenge has involved the complex juggling act of keeping a centre open while it undergoes a refit, forging relationships with the town outside and convincing a tantalising list of county businesses to commit to the new space.
Particular attention has been paid to ensuring this is a space for Gloucestershire businesses, as well as the eye-catching national brands.
‘One thing the job has always been and continues to be is about relationships. When I first came here two and a half years ago, no-one wanted to come down here.
‘People would park in the car park and go straight through on a Saturday to the farmers’ market and then leave. This was the poor end of town.
‘The idea has been to compliment the rest of Stroud and be part of it. There is plenty of talk about staycations this year too. People will come to the Cotswolds, and if we can help bring some of them to Stroud so they enjoy their stay even more, then we are winning,’ she said.
Speaking on Wednesday, day-three of retail re-opening and the day Five Valley’s new department store opened its doors, Tony Davey, chairman of Stroud and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said: ‘It’s good to see customers back on our high streets and side streets, with the latest step of the relaxation of restrictions.
‘There’s something about finally seeing people able to sit outside cafes, with a coffee and bite to eat, that enhances the positive vibe in the town that we have wanted back for so long.
‘Supported by two award winning markets (one Friday and Saturday, the other just Saturday), Stroud is a town that attracts a buzz and community.
‘We also benefit from vibrant mix of shops, predominantly independents, and hospitality offerings to cater for every taste.
‘It is this strength of independent businesses with our countryside setting that contributed towards our being identified as The Best Place to Live in England by The Sunday Times.
‘Monday brought much, physically distanced, excitement to Stroud – as it did to the other market towns in our district.
‘Many of the businesses have been busy repainting, re-arranging and refreshing their premises; with others (notably in the Five Valleys shopping centre) opening for the first time – bucking the downward retail trend being felt in so many other towns and cities right now.
‘We all eagerly await the next step of relaxation of restrictions that will take us that one step closer to the new normal; with our cafes, pubs, restaurants and accommodation ready to give a warm welcome to those able to stay inside.’
By Andrew Merrell
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