A look at one of Scotland’s biggest retail destinations and the manager at its helm
Silverburn shopping centre in Glasgow first opened in October 2007, built on the site of the struggling Pollok Shopping Centre. When it was first established, the destination was owned by a small company Retail Property Holdings led by a Glaswegian entrepreneur. Property investment company Hammerson acquired the destination in 2009 and has developed it over the last 12 years into becoming the largest purpose-built shopping centre in Scotland.
David Pierotti, Silverburn general manager, who has worked at the destination since day one, has watched it evolve over the years and says that the scheme is today known for being inviting, inspiring, and inclusive. “The mix of retail, F&B, and leisure appeals to absolutely every group, combining the best-of-the-best with the new and the next,” he enthuses. “Silverburn is completely community-driven; all of our brands and our on-site team work incredibly hard to ensure what we are delivering resonates with local people, as well as those from further afield making the perfect all-day visit.”
The retail destination is a relatively successful one as, according to Pierotti, the biggest issue it faces is the same as the rest of the retail industry: encouraging customers to come back and shop in person, following the pandemic, is something the entire market is grappling with.
The Glasgow centre boasts a robust offer of tenants to attract shoppers including Next, M&S, JD Sports, Flannels, Cineworld, Zara, H&M, and its dining and leisure extension the Winter Garden. The current focus, says Pierotti, is on maintaining proactive and positive leasing particularly amongst innovative and experiential brands, commercialisation, and a cultural events programme which draws in both local customers and those from further afield.
Pierotti was not always destined to manage the successful retail destination. He tells Retail Destination that his family have always been in the catering business (‘the name should give away my Scottish-Italian heritage’) so it was a significant personal decision for him to not stay in the family business. Instead, he joined Burtons as a trainee when he was 16, and by 18 was the youngest store manager in the UK.
His next step was in the world of department stores, a sector he says he always felt he would be well suited to. Pierotti spent some time at Debenhams, before moving onto a regional manager role for BHS across Scotland; visiting and supporting stores that were under-performing.
His first Shopping Centre role was at Falkirk, brought in by Capital and Regional to manage one of its centres, where he stayed for four years before being approached by Silverburn. He joined the team in 2007 shortly before its launch, and has been there ever since.
“I see centre management as akin to managing department stores, so it felt like a natural progression in my career,” he says. “I treat working at Hammerson owned asset, Silverburn, just as I did at Debenhams and BHS – but obviously on a much larger scale. The way we approach categories, departments, and tenant mix holds similarities, but the challenge of working with different people from different companies with different goals and agendas keeps the job varied and interesting.”
He says that being a centre manager also brings out his competitive side: “I’m driven to ensure my centre is recognised as one of the best around”, and points out that Silverburn is the only centre in the UK to win the large scheme Revo award, which recognises and celebrates retail places, four times. This he attributes to the work of both the destination team and the wider Hammerson team.
Pierotti says his favourite part of being centre manager is analysing sales and footfall stats because seeing the numbers increase is proof that everything is working as it should. But he also loves the people-aspect of the work, and being able to play a part in building and supporting the Silverburn community and the tenants withing the centre.
He personally created the destination’s on-site charity, Silverburn Cares, which supports numerous local charities, clubs, and initiatives, along with environmental projects, including the Pollok food bank the Braveheart Challenge, an entrepreneurism workshop the centre runs collaboratively with the local high school.
The most challenging thing about his job over the last 14 years, he says, has been the last 18 months: “It’s been extremely challenging. Managing over one million square foot of centre space and supporting our tenants, whilst trying to keep the team morale up and protect staff members’ mental health, has been tough.” Despite this, he is confident that the worst of it is over and is optimistic about the future: “Having pushed through the hard times, I now feel rejuvenated and motivated to turn a new leaf and get the centre back to where it was pre-pandemic.”
He thinks the biggest issue at the moment, not just for Silverburn but for the retail industry as a whole, is demonstrating the benefits of physical retail and persuading customers to shop in person again: “We have to ensure they feel safe and valued, across not only retail but hospitality and leisure too, and give them the confidence to come back,” he says . He is confident that the experience on offer Silverburn will ‘always be great’ and visitors will continue to come back again and again.
“We are constantly looking at ways to evolve the offering at Silverburn, while retaining what makes it desirable and attractive to our visitors now,” he adds “Renewing leases with our most popular brands is just as crucial as bringing in new and exciting concepts. Leisure use is of course part of the conversation, as is a focus on supporting and incubating small brands from Glasgow and the region.”
This was first published in Retail Destination Fortnightly. Click here to subscribe.