Jo Skilton has one of the biggest and best jobs in retail property. As Head of Leasing at the Battersea Power Station Development Company she is overseeing the creation of a massive new shopping environment in London. Dom Millar met up with her for a drink
Hi Jo, what will you have?
A glass of bubbles please, but I don’t drink alone… so what will you have?
You’ve gone from a role at intu where you were involved with many shopping centres to a single focus at Battersea. How has that been?
At intu I was the Retail & Leasing Director for five years. I was responsible for the delivery of all new retail space and new retail contacts so it was a great opportunity to expand my network having worked in both airport and outlet environments prior to that.
In terms of how the multi-site role compares to a single site focus, that’s easy. Whilst the 42 acres of the site at Battersea Power Station forms a single development, it is actually a series of clusters that work together to create a community. Helping to define what each distinct phase is allows us to establish what a new neighbourhood needs and which tenants are best placed to help deliver our ambition.
What sort of retail mix will we see at Battersea?
We’re currently focused on delivering the first three of seven phases.
Circus West is set to open in 2016 with up to 40 units establishing the tone for the whole development. A riverside ‘village’ offer will serve the needs of the local community, drawing on the largely independent offering of ‘local heroes' alongside award-winning chefs.
You can’t beat face time in this business
The Power Station will open in 2019 with c.115 retail units spread over the ground and upper ground floors of the central Boiler House and the two amazingly authentic Turbine Halls flanking it. The Power Station retail offer will be the showstopper on site – a best-in-class tenant mix offered in an iconic building steeped in heritage. In addition to the retail mix, we will create an urban food hall that will offer the best artisan food vendors sitting alongside renown restaurant operators.
The Electric Boulevard will see more than 50 large units open in 2020 to create London’s newest High Street designed by Foster + Partners and Gehry Partners. The street will be the southern pedestrian gateway, linking the new Northern Line Extension tube station with the rest of the development.
Food is clearly an essential part of the shopping experience these days. What sort of culinary experience can we expect at Battersea?
Top restaurants and chefs from around the world have already expressed interest in being part of the development and we look forward to confirming our first partners later this year.
We will curate a bespoke offer of culinary delights from established brands but through a range of concepts – from food stalls, pop-ups, cafés and fine-dining.
How do you keep the retail offer in the eye line of your target brands and keep it fresh over a prolonged period?
You can’t beat face time in this business. Myself and my team invest a huge amount of time and energy at industry events and meeting retailers on and off site. My team are some of the best networkers I’ve had the pleasure of working with and we arenever short of support from across the business which is great.
What’s the next big milestone for the development as a whole?
There seems to be a major milestone every week!
The opening of Circus West next year is something that the whole business is focused on. However, this year will see our first commercial partners confirmed, future phase and public realm design proposals revealed, work on the Northern Line Extension will start and the iconic chimney rebuild programme will progress.
Are you a retail addict away from work or is it too much like the day job?
Since working in Topshop on a Saturday and spending every penny before I left the shop that night to working in Battersea, retail has always been a large part of me.
I remember being interviewed by Barry Gibson when I was a Graduate Trainee at BAA Plc. wanting to move into the retail team.
Barry questioned whether or not I had enough retail experience. I told him that I shopped every Saturday and I knew where I wanted to go, what I wanted to buy and what retailers offered the best experience. I said that nothing could prepare me more than being in a retail environment as a shopper. I convinced him and the rest, as they say, is history!
What’s the most indulgent thing you’ve ever bought yourself?
To be honest, it’s not the “what” but the experience. There is nothing better than going out with nothing in mind and coming home with shopping bags. To give you flavour of this… I like Selfridges for me, Borough Market for food, Soho and Shoreditch for restaurants and if you ask my husband he’d tell you I have a certain penchant for shoes and bags!
How do you unwind when you’re away from the office?
Believe it or not, I go shopping! I also love visiting places abroad (ideally when the sun is shining) and exploring the shops, bars and restaurants. I also really enjoy a spa weekend to absolutely relax and unwind.
Jo and Dom met at The Duchess which is a traditional London pub that offers a wide choice of 20 draught beers, over 250
premium spirits and an excellent range of wines by the glass or bottle.
The décor is smart, eclectic and quirky; and the food is also great.
On the first floor, the private bar and its roof terrace command arguably the best view of its neighbour, the iconic Battersea Power Station.
So why not visit and watch the power station transforming?
101 Battersea Park Road London SW8 4DS
020 7498 7611