Kathryn McKenna speaks to centre manager Chris Nelmes as Banbridge shopping destination, The OUTLET, prepares to rebrand this March
The OUTLET, soon to be renamed The Boulevard, is set to host two launch weekends jam-packed with free fashion and beauty-related events to celebrate the centre’s rebrand.
The busy schedule of events will encompass four days of fashion shows, stylist talks, live designer Q&As and make-up demonstrations - plus giveaways including a trip to Paris.
The announcement comes as centre manager Chris Nelmes revealed exciting plans for the Banbridge discount shopping destination, which is set to add more businesses by the end of May.
He told the News Letter, “It’s all happening at The Boulevard. We are changing our name as a reflection of new owners, the Lotus Group, who took over in April, 2016.
“In line with their investment plans for the scheme, the first thing they did was put on a roof covering, which cost around £2million. Now the whole roof lights up, it is unbelievable and looks beautiful when the dark nights are here, especially at Christmas with all of the festive colours.
“The covering is something the Lotus Group did after listening to customers and their needs and investing where it is needed.
“They’ve also invested in landscaping and really brought the scheme up to where it needs to be.
“There is full focus on new tenants. We had six new businesses in just before Christmas and there are new tenants arriving by the end of May, I can’t reveal who they are just yet - but they are big, international brands!
“There is a lot of work in progress still happening as part of the Lotus Group plans here, so one thing they wanted to do was mark the evolution of the OUTLET moving forward. Renaming as the Boulevard marks a new era and I think it reflects our brand and what is happening here,” Chris said.
The first fashion weekender will be kicked off with partners Belfast Fashion Week, who are set to step out of Belfast and relocate to Banbridge to host a one-off ‘BFW Goes to The Boulevard’ fashion show on March 24, showcasing the latest spring styles available from the centre. Belfast Fashion Week director Cathy Martin, along with compère, former Miss Great Britain, Gemma Garrett, will also be on hand across the duration of both weekends to offer style inspiration for the season ahead.
Various fashion shows, set to take place hourly, will feature a mix of big brands and top picks from the high street, whilst attendees will get the opportunity to strut their stuff on the People’s Catwalk in the hope of winning some fantastic prizes.
On Sunday, March 25, top Irish-American designer Paul Costelloe will host an exclusive retailer catwalk and meet and greet. Since launching the label over 30 years ago, Paul Costelloe has grown to become one of Ireland and the UK’s most recognisable design houses with a growing presence around the world.
He said, “We have witnessed the centre grow from strength-to-strength after setting-up-shop in December 2011 and we’re delighted to be part of this new era in the Boulevard’s history.”
Meanwhile, fashion students from Belfast Metropolitan College will hit the runway as part of catwalk events on Friday, March 30, providing a platform for local students to showcase their talents.
Chris added, “Belfast Met students will be able to show off their designs on Friday. We’re looking at around 4pm, so there will be mid afternoon foot traffic plus it is Good Friday as well, so we are hoping lots of people will be able to come down and support.
“We would definitely be wanting to get more involved with supporting local students. This is giving us the opportunity to bring students on site and work together, and is a footfall-driving, unique selling point for something a bit different.
“We certainly wish to work with local students moving forward, and I think this could be the kickstart for showing off their skills and designs.”
Events will come to a close on Saturday, March 31 with further live make-up demonstrations, runway shows and the last opportunity for the pubic to hit the People’s Catwalk.
Chris, who originally hails from England, has worked as centre manager for almost eight years, “I came to Northern Ireland 23 years ago. I enjoy it here and love the retail market here. Yes we all know times are challenging as we hear on the radio so often, but at least our sales performance is significantly increased, as well as footfall.
“We have an element of all brands on the spectrum, from anchor tenants including Nike, M&S, Gap and Next; to the more luxurious products such as L.K.Bennett, Calvin Klein, and unique brands including Ulster Weavers who, for the first time in their history, have opened a shop and it is trading exceptionally well. We’ve also got Beauty Outlet, who opened just before Christmas and it is their first time in Northern Ireland, and the list goes on! “Some of these brands are unique to us, and to the province.
“We are high street fashion at outlet prices, and are now the sole outlet in Northern Ireland. You can spend the whole day here from restaurants to cinema to shopping all the high street fashions.”