The White Company is opening a new store in Windsor. That’s great news! However the announcement has unwittingly re-kindled the controversy over the recent re-branding of the town’s shopping centre.
King Edward Court
The shopping complex was built in 1979/80 and named King Edward Court in honour of the Queen’s great-grandfather, King Edward VII. This followed an extensive public consultation, including suggestions from residents.
King Edward Court suffered a major blow in 2017 when Fenwick’s closed and moved to a new and extensive shopping centre in nearby Bracknell. No other department store expressed any interest in taking over the site, which remains vacant. A number of other units near the former Fenwick’s store have since become vacant and more recently Next nearby has closed.
Re-branding to Windsor Yards
Late in 2017 in an effort to deflect further closures and attract more customers to the centre the owners and leaseholders decided on a rebrand. With their PR company, they came up with the name ‘Windsor Yards’. It was claimed that this was a name favoured by focus groups and others consulted, though no evidence of this has been provided and no Windsorians have come forward to say they were asked to contribute their views. Unlike in 1979, there was no opportunity for the public to make suggestions. It was argued that rebranding would attract more shoppers and increase footfall in the shopping centre.
At the time of the rebranding the Centre Manager told the local press that the decision to change the name was in order to give the centre a “more trendy vibe”. His quote was met with hilarity by Windsorians.
After two years Windsor remains unconvinced. Since 2017 many local organisations and individuals have expressed their displeasure but to no avail. The owners and leaseholders have ploughed on regardless, seemingly immune to the intense feeling in the community. They have only to look at social media to be aware of the hostility and, indeed, ridicule the rebranding has generated. One wag on Facebook has suggested ‘Why not Windsor Slums!’ The silence of these companies has for the main part, been deafening.
The Council’s position
The Royal Borough Council finds itself in a difficult position. Clearly it wants to be supportive of retail operations in the town centre but also mindful of the views of residents. Its hands are tied however because the shopping centre is private property and, in essence owners and leaseholders may use whatever brand name they wish. The Council can only seek to influence and persuade.
New stores welcome
Coming back to The White Company its presence in Windsor is most welcome. What a shame though that it described its location as “Windsor Yards” a name that few in Windsor recognise and of which even fewer approve.
On a final and light-hearted note, on its website the leaseholder lists its address as “126 King Edward Court”!