It's a St stunner in retail 'Oscars' night
JIM Harris has always been passionate about Hull's retail offering, and during his time at St Stephen's shopping centre he has helped secure a host of new and prestigious brands for the city.
His efforts to encourage people to visit the city centre, rather than hop in their cars and head to York or Leeds have remained constant, and anyone who challenges his assertion is swiftly reminded of Hull's vibrant retail and leisure mix, falling crime rate and ease of transport, among other things.
But this week, when the centre was announced UK Retail Destination of the Year at the Oracle Retail Week Awards – beating the likes of Meadowhall and the dazzling new Westfield Stratford, even Mr Harris was surprised.
He said: "Sir Philip Green was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from Simon Cowell, the team from John Lewis were sitting next to us – these awards really are the retail Oscars.
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"It sounds like a cliche but getting up on stage was surreal.
"But the judges were really impressed with the impact St Stephen's has had on the community which it serves, and for consistently outperforming regional and national benchmarks in terms of both sales and footfall."
As well as praising St Stephen's for aiding in the re-invigoration of Hull and generating an increase in footfall of some 2.5 million since 2008, judges also liked its community-focus and use of new media to promote the centre.
St Stephen's success in securing international brands such as Superdry and Lipsy, despite the sustained economic conditions that continue to impact the retail sector and consumer spending, was also celebrated.
Chris Brook-Carter, editor in Chief of Retail Week, said: "Retail can act as a powerful catalyst for regeneration and renewal and St Stephen's Shopping Centre has successfully helped to re-energise Hull bringing new retailers to the town and boosting footfall.
"The centre has succeeded in delivering an experience to its customers and adapting its approach to help retailers deliver their 'multichannel' strategy."
However, while the latest award win helps to reaffirm the centre's place on the retail map, Mr Harris feels it reflects more of what is happening in the city as a whole.
Mr Harris, who was last week announced the chair of Hull's Business Improvement District (BID), said: "I feel our win is a reflection on the up-and-coming strength of the city.
"It is very easy to get down beat about retail but if you have the right mix, get the atmosphere right and have provisions such as carparking and safety, it can still work well.
"It's about being a bit quirky and thinking outside the box and BID, as well as other partners, has a huge part to play in that."