Bill Plumridge is celebrating 25 years as manager of the Eastbourne Arndale Centre this month.
When Bill, 61, took over as manager in May 1990, the centre had only been open ten years, shops were closed on Sundays, online shopping was non-existent and the management office used a typewriter.
In his time at the helm of the town’s main shopping centre, Bill has seen huge changes not just in the centre itself but in the way people shop so the retail industry has had to change and adapt to compete with the surge in popularity of online shopping.
But Bill has adapted his role with the changes and says he loves his job as much now as he did when he first stepped into the manager’s shoes all those years ago and cannot wait to see the much awaited development of the £80 million extension to the centre that begins later this year and is due for completion in 2018.
Bill’s career in retail began at the age of 18 when he worked as a management trainee for the Army & Navy store in London. His subsequent roles included general manager of A&N Tunbridge Wells and Basildon before he took over at the Arndale.
Bill said, “When I arrived, the centre looked older than its ten years. We had low ceilings, no windows, old fashioned lamp posts and a poor tenant line up.
“What many people don’t realise is that from the day it was built, the intention was always there to build another phase of the centre.”
In 1997, the centre was transformed when owners Legal & General spent £5 million on a refurbishment that upgraded roof spaces and allowed natural light into the malls for the first time.
For Bill, there have been many highlights over the years. He said, “I love seeing new shops coming into the centre and then watching them succeed and grow. I really enjoy staging successful events such as Win A Car launched 15 years ago. It has raised more than £271,000 for charities which are always so appreciative of the opportunity to boost much needed funds.
“One of the other great things about my job is the team I work with. There is a great loyalty amongst the staff and so many have been with us for years.
“I have seen people start as youngsters and then work hard over the years so that they have ended up in more senior roles. There’s a fantastic team spirit at the centre.”
In addition to his role as centre manager, Bill is a former president of the Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce where he still serves as a director.
He said he is looking forward to the next most exciting phase in the centre’s history when 22 new units plus seven restaurants and a nine-screen cinema will revitalise the town centre.
Married to Carol for 35 years, Bill became a grandfather for the first time in 2013 so when he is not at the centre, or playing a round of golf, he can be found spending time with 20 month old Isabel.
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