Trafford Centre owner Intu is in "late stage negotiations" with a department store operator to occupy the second floor extension at Barton Square, with a focus on non-bulky goods, clothing and homeware.
The works to Barton Square to add a roof, second floor unit and walkway are part of a £50m investment in the Trafford Centre by Intu. Planning permission was granted earlier this year.
Gordon McKinnon, operations director at Intu Properties, spoke to Place North West at the British Council of Shopping Centres annual conference in London, and confirmed that Barton Square would be continuing its focus on home products to complement existing stores such as Next Home. Agents' speculation has linked Primark with the space but Intu has so far declined to confirm the identity of the department store operator.
The £30m plan to add 112,000 sq ft of retail space to Barton Square is on schedule to be completed during 2015.
McKinnon continued: "The customer experience is essential and creating a sense of destination. We have a £1.2bn development programme over the whole of our portfolio over the next 10 years, to make them of a consistent standard and appropriate to the modern visitor."
McKinnon said that Intu was looking at a variety of measures across its shopping centres to fully exploit the property assets, including later opening hours to "stretch the trading day" and increase the periods where the properties are in use. He said a key focus was identifying and meeting gaps in the food and drink offer, and looking at leisure occupiers to complement nearby retailers, with examples such as the Merlin Sealife Centre.
"Leisure has always been core for the Trafford Centre, but we are now looking at attracting more global brands. We need to continually refresh our offer to ensure we keep ahead of the game and meet changing consumer demand.
"Growth in the food and drink market seems to be exponential – we bring in new occupiers, and they quickly trade to capacity. Catering consistently outperformed retail throughout the recession, and it is continuing to be a strong market.
He said the success of Five Guys, which opened in the centre in April, had led to the brand looking to take space in other Intu properties. The restaurant chain is also understood to be in talks to take a unit in Manchester.
"There are 60 places to eat and drink in the Trafford Centre, which is an offer unlike any other and shows the potential for our other centres."