Welcome to two more members of the Park Mall community!

The reinvigoration of Park Mall shopping centre since it was purchased by Ashford Borough Council in June 2015 has left everyone impressed.

Following the council’s shrewd acquisition – to breathe new life into the formerly run-down area of the town centre following calls from residents to improve its fortunes – there have been many success stories from businesses who have made Park Mall their home.

Primarily these businesses have been quality independent retailers, who have proudly fashioned a fresh offer within Park Mall. They have brought enthusiasm, creativity and a sense of community not just to Park Mall but to the town centre as a whole, in which 46% of businesses are quality independents. This has been best evidenced in the entrepreneurial independent businesses within the council’s Made In Ashford shop project and the events themed around Easter and Halloween, in addition to treasure hunts.

Footfall has risen in Park Mall by almost 7% as a result and has led to six existing retailers renewing their leases as well as attracting more than a dozen others. This has proved the council’s astute commercial approach and the competencies it has in-house to conclude such important agreements with businesses, all of whom are proactively championed through LoveAshford.com – the UK’s first digital high street.

And with developers demonstrating confidence in the local economy with a wide range of major regeneration projects ongoing – such as the Ashford College campus, Elwick Place, Chapel Down brewery, part of forthcoming developments on both sides of the Victoria Way – local businesses are also showing increased faith in Ashford town centre.

March 2017 brings yet more exciting news for Park Mall. Ashford Borough Council is delighted to welcome the KM Group to Park Mall. The nationally respected regional publishing group which writes, prints and distributes The Kentish Express, the leading newspaper title for the Ashford borough, is moving into Unit 4, opposite The Little Teapot.

The council is really proud that such a prominent local and influential business has taken the decision to relocate in Park Mall. Cllr Graham Galpin, Ashford Borough Council’s portfolio holder for town centres and business, said: “We are very pleased to welcome our colleagues from The Kentish Express to Park Mall. We believe this is an endorsement of the Park Mall project and again illustrates the versatility of the space. I am also very happy to note the professionalism with which the Kentish Express felt we handled this process as landlord.

“I am certain the sustained increased footfall in Park Mall was a contributory factor to the KM Group’s decision and I know that residents will be pleased to know that the paper retains a strong, prominent location where they can pop in to share community news. Local newspapers are the lifeblood of our communities and it heartening to bring the Kentish Express to an even more central location within Ashford town centre.”

KM Group Operations Director Duncan Gray said:

We are delighted to be relocating our team into Park Mall, it’s a great location and it is exciting to be part of the centre’s developing community. We look forward to a long and successful partnership with Ashford Borough Council; whose regeneration team have worked so hard to bring this opportunity to fruition.”

In addition to the good news about the KM Group, there is another success story to report within Park Mall. A business that has been occupying a ‘business incubator’ space – The Record Store – is moving from its small kiosk near Wilko to a much larger unit within Park Mall. The move is big news, reflecting the resurgence of vinyl and fills a natural void in Ashford where there had not been a dedicated record store.

Having had a real opportunity to test their businesses on the High Street both have decided to move to larger premises in Park Mall, illustrating how Ashford is working for them. This is really positive news and is a contributory factor to Ashford town centre’s vacancy rate at 9% being below the national average of 10%.

Jo Wynn-Carter, Ashford Borough Council’s Regeneration Manager for the town centre, said:

“It is always great to see businesses taking the step to trial their business on the high street – however it is even more encouraging when those businesses have the confidence to move from those incubator spaces to setting up their shops for real.

“We wish The Record Store all the best on the next stage of its life-cycle and of course Ashford Borough Council through LoveAshford.com will be working with them to support and promote their business. LoveAshford is just one way that we support local businesses.

“The Business Mentoring Programme is providing town centre independent retailers with focused advice and support targeting the retail operations issues that businesses face today. This has been hugely well received and I am proud of the way that we are delivering meaningful support in the town centre.”

Owner of The Record Store, Vince Monticelli, said: “We are so pleased to have moved into this bigger shop, where we can finally show all our stock and other merchandise that we offer. It has been an exciting journey to date and we hope the music lovers of Ashford and surrounding areas will continue to support as fantastically as they did in the kiosk.

“Now though they have room to take their time to browse and even relax in the store to talk all things musical. We also have room to put on local live acts playing acoustically in the shop and want to make that a regular feature as we did for our opening party.”

Alternatively you can visit the record store online at www.therecordstoreashford.co.uk, visit its facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TheRecordStoreAshford/ or follow it on Twitter at: @Recordstore_A

All of the retailers in Park Mall are detailed on LoveAshford.com, Ashford’s digital high street where you can find out the latest information on all Ashford town centre businesses, meet the owners, access special offers and get inspiration from timely and regular blogs written by the council’s Emily Holland.