'People like what they see ... but we can not stand still'
WITH its popular, international brands lining the centre, many would think of St Stephen's as a cosmopolitan and fashionable place to shop.
The shopping centre opened five years ago with 12 units and now boasts 50, as it celebrates its fifth anniversary.
Having spent a large chunk of his career in retail, three years ago centre manager Jim Harris, who grew up on the South Bank, made his step over the river and into Hull.
Jim said: "It was a natural move for me to come here. It is a great part of the world.
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"My aim was to improve the centre and get the footfall moving."
Jim said the footfall in the shopping centre has grown from 8.5 million in 2008 to almost 11 million this year.
Bringing in popular brands such as Lipsy, Bagel Nash and Krispy Kreme, Jim's team is working hard to make the centre stand out from the crowd.
Jim even brought two directors from clothing store Superdry to the city to show them exactly what they could have. The retail chain swiftly moved in.
Along with his dedicated team, Jim is continuing to work hard to develop the centre and ensure it stays at the heart of the city's shopping scene.
A new 45-seat "chill-out" zone with free wifi now features on the terrace in the centre.
Jim said: "We like to keep the centre fresh and make sure we meet our responsibility to our customers to make it as good as it can be."
His passion for the centre – and the city – is apparent.
Jim was even crowned the best in the business when he scooped the medium centre manager of the year accolade at this year's Sceptre Awards, which he described as the "Oscars for shopping centres".
Jim said: "As a fresh person in the city, Hull inspired me. The key thing for me was taking the St Stephen's brand and seeing how we could make that better for Hull."
Jim's passion and determination to provide Hull with the very best service he can has also seen him spread his talents elsewhere.
The businessman is on the Hull Business Improvement District (BID) board of directors and on the board of the Northern British Council Of Shopping Centres association, as well as being a member of Hull Bondholders.
Jim said: "I work with the BID, bondholders and with other shopping centres to make the city as good as it can be.
"Hull is a very, very special place.
"It is different to any other city I have worked in and we have to get the good news about Hull out there and get people into the city to see what we have."
The centre has also moved in the right direction to hop onboard the green revolution.
With a zero-to-landfill policy, 100 per cent of the venue's waste has been recycled or incinerated for energy recovery and over the past five years.
Jim said: "The initiative and backing for our environmental policies comes from the landlord, British Land.
"This creates a team effort across the whole business to embrace our corporate responsibilities."
St Stephen's is also making huge savings on its water usage. It has reduced its water bill by more than 30 per cent.
Alongside running the centre, helping others is a key part of the business at St Stephen's.
Jim said: "We raise £50,000 a year for charity. It is all about giving something back."
Despite still bringing in quality brands, we all know it is not an easy ride for retailers at the moment.
Jim said: "Retailers are having a hard time.
"They want better shops in the right places and we have to provide the right location for them.
"People have said they like what they see at St Stephen's and we have helped to change the perception retailers had about Hull.
"The people of Hull have been fantastic to me and the centre has had great support.
"The team has been very, very positive and there is great enthusiasm and motivation.
"The bondholders, the BID and Hull City Council have really helped us to make this possible."
Jim said the team at the centre are doing their best to improve the Hull experience.
He said: "New projects in the pipeline for the medium-term are to improve the customer experience, which includes a car park redecoration and also a full toilet refurbishment.
"We are proud of Hull and we've achieved so much and want to take it further. We can never stand still.
"What we have got here is a great situation and a great centre in the right place.
"It is a good time to be in the city. The past three years have been really great and I am looking forward to the years ahead."