THE general manager of Glasgow’s St Enoch Centre has declared the city has lost none of its appeal as a major UK shopping destination as work begins on the mall’s latest expansion.

A nine-screen VUE cinema and nine restaurants are being added to St Enoch on Argyle Street as asset partner Sovereign Centros looks to establish it as a key player in the city’s leisure economy.

The project, due for completion in the first half of 2020, follows the redevelopment of the centre’s food court last year, and builds on the area formerly occupied by BHS.

General manager Anne Ledgerwood said the latest developments at St Enoch, owned by private equity giant Blackstone, underline how it is responding to changing market dynamics as consumers are increasingly shopping online.

Ms Ledgerwood said: “Retail and leisure are starting to live together much more. The centre is coming up for 30 years old, and has evolved continually over those 30 years. This is what we see as the next evolution of where the centre is going. I think it is also hugely important for Glasgow city centre as well. It is quite a big change again – keeping Glasgow at the forefront of leisure and retail.

“Glasgow has done really well as a retail destination, but as retail reshapes then the whole picture has to reshape. We see ourselves as an important part of Glasgow city centre and how we take that forward.”

Ms Ledgerwood, who was marketing director at the centre for four years before becoming general manager in 2013, raised the prospect of St Enoch taking advantage of increasing residential development within the city centre – a key element of local council policy.

Highlighting residential developments such as the Get Living private rental accommodation project on the High Street, and the emergence of new student accommodation blocks, she observed that St Enoch could become a “hub” for the eastern edge of the city, linked to the Merchant City.

Boosting that ambition are the strong transport links the St Enoch Centre enjoys. It is close to Argyle Street train station, the Buchanan Street Subway stop, and major bus links on Stockwell Street and Glassford Street, while the major train stations of Queen Street and Central are within walking distance. It also offers around 900 car parking spaces, Ms Ledgerwood noted.

The investment in St Enoch comes at a challenging time for the high street and for Glasgow in particular, however. Traders on Sauchiehall Street have come under intense pressure in the aftermath of two major fires, which have closed off large chunks of the thoroughfare for much of the year, while traditional retailers are continuing to deal with massive structural change brought by the drive to online retailing. Several big-name retailers have failed this year, including House of Fraser (bought out of administration by Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct in a pre-pack deal), while others have scaled back store numbers after striking CVAs (company voluntary arrangements) with their landlords.

Retailers in Glasgow have also had to battle the tide of consumers drifting to out of town destinations such as Silverburn and Braehead, and on a broader societal level the city is dealing with a growing level of homelessness and anti-social behaviour.

Ms Ledgerwood acknowledged there are challenges and as chairman of the City Centre Retail Association said she is involved in efforts to reduce homelessness in partnership with other businesses and organisations such as the Simon Community.

Notwithstanding the challenges, she insisted the appeal of Glasgow is as strong as ever, pointing to the recent commitment of Victoria’s Secret and Nespresso to Buchanan Street, and New York fashion designer Kate Spade confirming plans to open a store in Princes Square.

Ms Ledgerwood said: “Glasgow is still really strong in that sense, and I don’t think we should downplay that. Glasgow is really strong in a reshaping retail market.”