The boss of one of Scotland’s biggest shopping centres has revealed ambitious plans to diversify its range of attractions as its new owners seek to keep up with changing consumer demands.

David Pierotti, centre director of Silverburn, said a host of new entertainment, leisure and retail offers will be introduced to the centre on Glasgow’s southside next year as Eurofund Group and Henderson Park underline their commitment to the property. The current owners acquired Silverburn from Hammerson in a £140 million deal that was completed earlier this year.

Mr Pierotti, whose long career has featured spells with Debenhams and BHS, said it was vital for Silverburn to continue evolving as consumers increasingly look for experiences beyond retail when they visit a major shopping destination.

A £32m development project will include the addition of leisure attractions such as ten-pin bowling and putting, a work hub concept, and changes to soften the interior of the mall with the introduction of more seating, children’s play area, and planting.

Ideas are being worked up to develop the external areas while new retailers and restaurants are being lined up, with up to six new additions expected to come on stream in the first quarter.

The Real Greek, a new national branded restaurant chain, is set to replace the space formerly occupied by Pizza Hut during the first quarter of 2023.

The new services will join a leisure offer currently at Silverburn that includes a Cineworld theatre complex and a raft of branded food and drink operators such as Nando’s, Wagamama, Yo! Sushi, Five Guys, Fridays, Tony Macaroni, and Zizzi.

Mr Pierotti said: “You will see huge changes next year. We are going to be moving more into leisure, F&B (food and beverage), entertainment. We are looking at a broader church of retail operation.”

He said much of the centre’s planning is being influenced by what consumers are looking for post-Covid, noting: “We are thinking of [introducing] more entertainment like putting, ten-pin bowling, all these different, wonderful things that human beings love to do. Post-Covid, people are happy to spend £20 less on buying a jumper and spending that £20 on going for a coffee with their mates.

“That is something we took from the period of Covid, which was awful for us all and retail in particular. I think people appreciated other people. And I think my industry has now to got to say: people have got loads of stuff, maybe they just want memories, maybe they just want things to do with their families or their mates.”

Mr Pierotti added: “I think that is Silverburn’s and Eurofund’s biggest challenge: how can we be different? Or else we are just the same as the rest of them.”

He said occupancy at Silverburn has been robust in spite of the challenges facing the retail sector. The arrival of upmarket clothing and homes retailer The White Company (“a real coup”) and Doner Shack have helped “backfill” some of the few vacant units, while plans are being made to make use of the former Debenhams department store. Debenhams closed for good as a high street retailer in January 2021.

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Mr Pierotti said: “The Debenhams situation was heartbreaking. I had worked for Debenhams when I was a younger man. That aside, the Debenhams that traded here was one of the most successful Debenhams in the UK.

“One of the biggest challenges Eurofund have got is to reconfigure space, and [with] the Debenhams unit the likelihood is that it will be carved into two, maybe three different units. We have got a bit of interest in the unit because it is 140,000 sq ft – it is a monster. It is going to cost quite a pretty penny to cannibalise it into a palatable size for us to be able to let.”

Mr Pierotti, who is currently in the midst of his 40th Christmas in the retail industry, said trading at Silverburn has been in encouraging in the run-up to Christmas.

He explained: “Last night (Wednesday) we traded until 10 o’clock and that was the right decision. There was still meaningful footfall coming through after nine o’clock. We are currently tracking about 10 per cent up, week to date, against last year, so [it is] really encouraging.”

The retail chief, who has been with Silverburn since it opened 15 years ago, said the centre has received an unexpected boost from recent industrial action. Strikes by postal workers have meant people have relied less on online shopping.

Mr Pierotti observed: “It is actually quite ironic this year. Because of all the industrial disputes that are going on up and down the country, postal strikes etcetera, I think we have actually had quite a big boost off the back of that. People have said ‘I can’t take that risk. I’m going to go on site and purchase like I used to do years ago instead of buying online’.

“We have definitely seen a trend back towards physical shopping. I think that, linked with the entertainment changes, are going to be the challenges we have going forward. Giving people reasons to be cheerful, reasons to come on site.”

Mr Pierotti acknowledged the pressures shoppers are facing amid the cost-of-living crisis, but said retailers had still to fire the starting gun on major discount offers. He added: “Yes, there are some secret offers and more evident offers via windows etcetera, but one thing Glaswegians don’t do is let you down at Christmas. “

However, he is aware that the New Year will bring challenges for consumers. While he noted that it is “nice that people like to celebrate Christmas”, the “undertone” going into 2023 is one of worry over the cost of living, the ongoing impact of Brexit on staff recruitment and retention, and energy bills.