The safety and security of more than eight million shoppers who visit Swan Walk every year lies in the hands of a professional and dedicated team of management and administration, security officers, cleaners and maintenance teams.
Pete, the affable security manager at Swan Walk and life-long Horsham resident, walked me through what happens behind the scenes in the busy town shopping centre.
“Some people think we are like police officers, others think we are average Joe Bloggs doing a job,” said Pete as we started our patrol from Swan Walk’s iconic mosaic.
Describing his job as ‘customer service and health and safety with a security edge’ the 29-year-old explained security’s main function is to be visible in the centre to support customers and tenants at all times.
One issue the team deal with is lost children and panic-stricken parents running around the centre looking for them. The centre has procedures in place and all staff on site are directed to search the centre and the wider town centre areas. Swan Walk is also a Childsafe Zone and offers free wristbands to all parents shopping with young children. The security team also deal with all first aid incidents, evacuations and the occasional shoplifting incident too.
The officers walk 1,350 steps on a centre full patrol, which is roughly the same as walking to the top of the Eiffel Tower and back again. The site is manned at all times 365 days a year and patrols can take up to an hour depending on the route. All checks are registered electronically and full records held on site.
Pete explained although customers only use one level to shop, there are seven floors within the centre: three car park floors level with three in the shopping centre, and underneath is the basement, where Swan Walk receives 278 deliveries per month.
On our travels around the centre we saw the cleaning team checking the mall, toilets and back of house areas. All areas were immaculately clean and the team obviously take great pride in their work too. The stores’ waste is collected by the cleaning team and brought down to the basement where it gets separated for recycling.
We broke off the patrolling route and went up one of the 13 staircases within the centre to the gravelled roof and had a look at the centre’s glass roof. “The glazing is cleaned inside and out once a year. It’s quite a job, taking two weeks of night shifts.”
We visited the control room in the centre management offices on the second floor. “This is the most pressured element of the job to do,” said Pete.
“One minute it’s quiet and the next you have multiple radio messages coming through, alarms going off, telephones ringing and visitors signing in.
“All security staff are trained for two full weeks before being left in the control room which houses all the centre’s CCTV monitors and life safety systems.”
He added that the centre CCTV system uses 360 degree pan tilt zoom cameras so ‘there’s very little that we cannot see which ensures that we can keep the centre safe and secure for our customers at all times’.
Pete added: “As a centre team we do have fun but at the same time we have got to be professional and focused whenever we are on duty and no one day is ever the same.”
My experience behind the scenes at Swan Walk opened my eyes to the expanse of the back areas and reassured me of the professionalism of the teams keeping the centre safe, clean, secure and well managed.
Swan Walk Shopping Centre was originally built in the 1970s and was an open red brick scheme linking Carfax to West Street via an open square in front of a small Sainsburys store. In 1989 the centre was extended to include the mall areas from the mosaic to the present Wilkinson store and at this time the original centre was enclosed and given an internal finish. In 1989/1990 Swan Walk was one of few enclosed shopping centres in the area.
There have been further developments in the more recent past with Sainsburys moving and a new BHS store arriving in 1995.
In 1996 the mini atrium at the end of the 1989 extension was redeveloped to accommodate the Wilkinson anchor store and in 1998 the Carfax and West Street malls were retiled, whilst keeping all stores trading every day.
Retailers and brands have come and gone over the years to satisfy the changing requirements of customers but there are still brands and staff that have been in the centre for at least 25 years.
The centre is managed by Gill Buchanan, who also currently chairs Horsham Unlimited. She has been at the centre for 19 years and is supported by an operations manager, two administrators, a maintenance team of two, 11 security officers and 7 cleaners.
The centre is manned 24 hours a day, 365 days a year but is only open to the public to support stores trading hours.
Every morning a full patrol is undertaken and cleaning checklist completed before unlocking the centre. The lifts to/from the car park are within the centre and are maintained by the centre.
Throughout the day security officers and cleaners patrol set routes to ensure that the centre remains safe, clean and secure for all customers – even the litter bins are checked every 15 minutes and the check is documented. A new digital patrol system is in place to log exactly where checks have been undertaken and at what time. No one day in then centre is ever the same and the teams are all highly skilled and experienced in dealing with every eventuality.
All security officers are first aid and defibrillator trained and deal with everything from first aid incidents to lost children and evacuations.
The cleaning team manage all front and back of house cleaning including waste removal from stores, deep cleaning regimes and roof/gutter checks.
The centre works with many local partners and runs many events supporting the community including the annual Cancer Research UK Donation Station which has raised £100,000 over the last 6 years, Pop Up Art Galleries, sponsoring a Police Car in partnership with Lifestyle Ford, enabling charity collections and the use of mall space and empty units to raise funds. The 2012 Chase Shooting Star Christmas Gift Wrapping service raised an amazing £2,147.
Security Officers walk 1,350 steps on a full patrol, that’s roughly almost the same as walking all the way to the top of the Eiffel Tower and back down again.
The centre receives an average of 278 deliveries in its basement each month.
Customers may only shop on one level but the whole centre and back of house consists of seven levels.
There are a total of 13 internal staircases within the centre.
The centre is manned by security 24 hours a day, 365 days a year which uses 23,088 man hours a year.
In the past 10 years the centre has only been completely evacuated once.
Last year it received almost 800 items of lost property including clothes, shoes, hearing aids, dentures and even live animals.
It used 8,640 toilet rolls last year and had 13,680 hours of cleaning cover.
Some 8,279,770 visits were made to the centre in 2012.