Welcome to the second issue of our Day in the Life series, a new initiative from the Marketing Institute for 2017, which profiles our members.
Today, we are talking to Don Nugent, Centre Director at Dundrum Town Centre.
Don discusses his role, how he got there and the many challenges involved in running a retail centre.
The Marketing Institute: Describe a typical working day in your role.
Don Nugent: As Centre Director of Dundrum Town Centre there is no such thing as a typical day. That, in fact, is one of the great things about this industry – no two days are the same!
I like to get into the office around 6am. This gives me a chance to deal with any outstanding emails or reports in a bit of peace and quiet before the phones start ringing and the hustle and bustle of the day begins. The Centre is already a hive of activity with retailers, the cleaning team, security staff and the car park crew all gearing up for the day ahead. By 7.30 or so I am usually on the mall to make sure that we have our best foot forward and ready to welcome our customers for the day.
MII: What were your key career moves to get to your current role?
D.N: Supported by a marketing qualification, I was fortunate to gain experience in Switzers (now Brown Thomas) and Clerys department stores over the years as well as launching The Square in Tallaght back in 1990 along with 7 years in Dunnes Stores head office prior to coming to Dundrum Town Centre. My experience has been across department store sales and buying responsibilities, merchandise and general management roles, heading up the Home division in Dunnes buying office as well as shopping centre management over those years. This has given me a good grounding and experience across many aspects of retail which I have been able to bring to Dundrum.
MII: What does a Centre Director at Dundrum Town Centre do?
D.N: I allocate an amount of my time each week on the shop floor which I spend talking to store managers or meeting with area managers in relation to the business performances and discussing potential marketing opportunities to support the brands. This is critical in understanding how the businesses are performing. I like to refer to Dundrum as one big department store with 170 departments. Liaising with our tenants and understanding how their businesses are performing and pre-empting any issues before they become a problem is a key part of what a centre management team does.
We try to keep meetings as brief as possible. We have a number of ‘fixed’ meetings in the diary each week including strategy, marketing, tenant, security and lettings. Other regular meetings are also necessary as we need to constantly review technical facilities, customer facilities, customer service programmes, housekeeping regimes, our gift card business, and, needless to say, our budgets.
Marketing initiatives are key in creating a sense of theatre in Dundrum. We must remain creative in terms of events and activities and adding to the customer experience. Above- and below-the-line initiatives all form part of the strategy but the tactical execution is paramount in delivering that quality experience. Social media has played an important part in our engagement with the audience. With over 177,000 Facebook fans and more than 44,500 Twitter followers with a high level of engagement makes it very important that we manage the tone and quality of that engagement.
Also, at least one ‘new to market’ store or restaurant has opened every year since opening. When Dundrum opened in 2005, there were 21 new to market brands in the tenant mix. This strategy is vital in maintaining the Centre’s points of difference and we expect this to continue into the future.
MII: What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
D.N: One of the challenges in this type of industry is maintaining points of difference and introducing initiatives to ensure that customers enjoy the experience and, most importantly, come back. Many such initiatives have been introduced over the years. There is no shortage of (positive) challenges in Dundrum Town Centre, not least of which is the scope for future development of the scheme. This offers great opportunities in adding to the tenant and leisure mix going forward.
Managing and coordinating the myriad aspects that are involved in running a business like this can be challenging so it is imperative that you build a good team around you who will strive for the same standards as you do in your leadership role. I am fortunate to have such a team.
MII: What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?
D.N: In order to make the role effective, leadership and attention to detail are paramount. My key role is to nurture that ethos of quality across the tenant mix and the Centre itself, to keep raising the bar so that none of us becomes the least bit complacent. We work in a very competitive environment and we must continually look at ways to be different and innovative. The team often hear me saying “If you think you’re at the top of the hill, there’s only one way to go!” We have to keep climbing, raising the standards and paying close attention to the detail. The attention to detail can be the difference between failure and success. Indeed, sometimes you have to be prepared to keep chipping away if you believe something is right for your business and be prepared to keep questioning when you are told something cannot be done! That will be a major contributor to maintaining and growing your market position.