Di Rodgers has been at the helm of the outlet shopping venue for around six months now, having previously worked there running one of the shops that is based there.
With a handful of empty units at the venue, next to White Rose Way, she is looking for new tenants.
She said: “We are in talks with different brands that we’d like to come, and we are chasing brands that we’d like to bring in.”
Di, who worked as a store manager at the centre for eight years, running its branch of Marks and Spencer, says she can’t say who the brands are that they’re talking to.
But she knows what she would like to see.
“I think we’d like to see a sit down meal offer here. We’ve got plenty of coffee shops, but I think we’re missing a sit down meal option. We’d like somewhere where people can come for a meal and make a day of their visit. This is what customers are telling us. They’d like somewhere where they can go for some fish and chips rather than just a snack.
“I think we would also like a lingerie brand – we’ve not had one since Wonderbra closed last year. We have Marks and Spencer and Bon Marche, but lingerie shops tend to be popular at centres like this.
“Also, customers always want a chemist or a newsagent, and a gym would be lovely, too. At one point we looked at bringing in a vets with doggy day-care, but that didn’t come off.”
Di loves outlet shops, and is pleased to be working in the sector. Over the years, she has worked at a string of well known chains including Gap, Littlewoods and Matalan since she first started her working life, in towns including Castleford, Beverley and York.
“I’m an avid outlet shopper,” she said. “But this is my first shopping centre that I’ve run. It’s very different from running a shop. I like to speak to the retailers, seeing if they’ve got any promotions and what we can do to help them. I like talking to the customers too.”
There is currently building work going on at the venue, which recently has seen its signs rebranded with a new logo.
At present, workmen are creating illuminated entrance signs designed to make it clearer to pedestrians where they need to walk from the car park to get to the shops. There was a feeling that customers were drawn to a structure in the centre of the car park near the disabled parking bays, rather than the passages on either site of it which are the entrances to the main centre.
That has been part of a £1 million investment programme, which has also improved lighting and signage, and added more greenery.
But Di has plenty of other ideas she would like to look at.
One of those is to create a dog café, as part of an effort to make sure the centre is dog friendly.
Dogs are permitted in the centre, and a lot of customers take their dogs for a walk round the lake while they are visiting, popping into a café while they are there.
“We’re looking to do something this year to provide a covered sitting area that will be dog friendly. It may be under canvas, with a wind break, and we’d like to provide dog biscuits and water for the dogs.”
She is also looking to site dog poo bag dispensers around the venue.
There are other suggestions for animal friendly activities at the centre. Di would like to look into providing somewhere to site a beehive on the roof near the centre’s rotunda, and would like to look into growing things like strawberries or tomatoes behind its glass, perhaps giving the produce away to a good cause.
She believes helping the bees would be good for the environment and is keen to see litter picks in the Lakeside area. The centre is a member of a broader forum of Lakeside businesses, and action on litter is something that they undertake together, with staff going on litter picks.
The forum group also works to co-operate over parking at Lakeside, especially when there are big events happening in that part of the town.
She plans to continue with some of the popular attractions that have already been establised at Lakeside.
For instance, the outdoor cinema event that was held last year will return again this summer, and Di says customers will be able to vote for which film is shown. No shortlist of films is available yet, but she believes something like Frozen 2 would be something that may be popular if it is available in the summer.
There are plans to link the film in with a voucher, which would be issued to shoppers to use if they make a return visit to the centre.
More immediate plans are expected to see an Easter market later in the year over the Easter Bank Holiday, along with on-site entertainers.
And in March, the centre will name a new adopted charity, again voted for by customers. Its current charities are DonMention and Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice.