Rush down to Rushden Lakes – the UK’s first experiential shopping centre

The 6-year wait for the opening of Rushden Lakes is officially over and the £140 million development has proved to be a slice of retail heaven for Northampton. The blend of modern architecture, shopping and nature has transformed the reserve into a mini Singapore, the ‘garden city’. Even if the weather is 10 degrees colder, this bold attempt to bring the great outdoors into a retail space has genuine impact.


Free me of guilt

There is something subconsciously more ethical about shopping in a natural environment. It somehow reduces the guilt that can accompany a day of materialistic indulgence at a mall. With nods towards sustainability it feels as though Rushden’s designers have worked hard to evolve this shopping centre beyond the ‘temples of consumerism’ image that has dogged the format in recent years.

Allow me to escape

As well as having the feel-good factor, Rushden Lakes has successfully transformed a trip to the shops into an enriching day out. As our culture’s emphasis on experiences continues to strengthen and footfall becomes an increasing concern for retailers, this development feels like a glimpse of the future for bricks and mortar. Visitors have the opportunity to shop, dine lakeside, take a boat out, bird watch, go on a woodland walk, or watch a film – what’s not to love?! The range of retailers also ensures there is something for everyone. Even the parking system, where you can get 5 hours free, promotes the sense that this is a place in which to luxuriate; meaning trips are naturally more about spending substantial time and money than functionality and just ‘popping in’.

Excite me with events

The buzz around Rushden is unmistakable. 1,000s turned up to celebrate its opening. M&S featured a brass band and prosecco bar, and became crammed with shoppers scrambling to find gold bows worth up to £1,000 in vouchers. Meanwhile, H&M had its very own in-store DJ whilst New Look offered a 20% discount and a competition to win the window. Some visitors even braved boating as the skies greyed over; seemingly intent on truly immersing themselves in the experience. The overall effect was far removed from traditional notions of a shopping trip; playing to emotions beyond the simple desire to acquire. The upcoming, highly anticipated opening of the House of Fraser flagship store can only build the excitement. For those seeking clues to how retail might develop, watch this open space.



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