Wendy Spinks is the Commercial Director at HS1 Ltd and Chair of Urban Partners for King’s Cross, Euston and St Pancras. From helping to develop strategies to better customer experiences to introducing new retail estate within the stations, we chatted to Wendy about how St Pancras International has transformed into an ‘all-in-one station’, her early career in retail, and what’s next: 

What has been your experience within the retail industry and how did this lead to where you are now?

I’ve spent a lot of my early career in retail, working for brands who had great stores in travel locations. It was a great learning curve helping them to adapt to the customer and their particular needs in that environment but also being smart about operations, they are generally quite small stores for the number of sales they generate, they work the space hard, so you do have to be quite creative with the design and the layout and especially how you handle stock and deliveries.

Switching to become effectively a landlord of these types of retail units when I began working for the Airport was interesting, but my prior experience was really valuable, i understood the challenges, and the opportunities that the retailers faced and what it took to navigate them and build successful businesses.

When I joined HS1 over 10 years ago, I realised there were many similarities between Rail stations and Airports but there are also some key differences. 

In my current role, I oversee the commercial strategy for all HS1’s station’s, retail and property. This includes one of London’s most iconic destinations, St. Pancras International. 

The iconic London station is a unique travel hub to work with. It is a destination in its own right, with some visitors coming to enjoy the vast range of shops, restaurants, pubs, or to see musicians and artists take centre stage, while others simply take in the experiences as we welcome them to London and connect them to various locations across the UK and Europe.

Something I’ve learnt is that people can do more by working together and that is something that is also relevant in the role I have as chair of Urban Partners – a voluntary business partnership for the Euston, King’s Cross and St Pancras area, working together with the local community to create a thriving urban environment for this generation and the next.

What advice would you give to someone looking for a career in retail:

Don’t hesitate – just jump in and do it! Retail is a great opportunity to learn a number of vital skills, such as customer service, teamwork and leadership. Hard work really pays off in this industry and you can progress more quickly in comparison to other sectors. 

The key piece of advice I can offer is to focus on your product and service offering in order to exceed the expectation of your customer. To do this you will need to work as a team and play off each other’s strengths – be sure to support each other and work in collaboration to achieve success.

What is new at St Pancras international? 

Despite a difficult year for retail, we are really pleased to have welcomed a number of new retailers and eateries including Remoli, Reiss and Kineya, which has added to our already pretty impressive range of shopping and dining outlets. We’ve also launched an exciting new sustainability initiative where upon every purchase someone makes at our shops or restaurants, we will be donating to help restore a vital UK ecosystem which in turn will help the environment.

We are looking forward to reinstating our calendar of arts & cultural events for our visitors to discover and have plenty in the pipeline – there’s lots to keep an eye out for!

Tell us a bit about your selection of F&B retailers – aware you have had some new brands come to the station.

Dining is a key part of the experience at St. Pancras International – whether you’re visiting and or travelling with friends or simply on your way to work, we’re proud to offer a range of eateries for any occasion. We recently welcomed Remoli, which is a unique ‘grab and go’ pasta concept from Simon Remoli, as well as Greggs  and Kineya! Kineya at St Pancras is the first in the UK and a great place for noodles.  Our visitors can also enjoy some Instagram-worthy treats at EL&N, pick up a picnic hamper at Fortnum & Mason or enjoy a drink at the Betjeman Arms before their journey – there really is something for everyone.

Do you think St Pancras is becoming a destination spot rather than just a train station? 

It’s both, it’s a gateway to several great destinations – including the East Midlands, the South as well as continental Europe – and therefore a perfect place to add some pleasure to either end of their journey. It’s also super convenient place for shopping and dining, making us the perfect ‘all-in-one’ destination after a great day out, be it in London or beyond.

Tell us more about the new sustainability strategy you have rolled out within the station?

We’re really excited to continue our retail sustainability initiative – ‘Project Peatlands’ where on every purchase made at any of our shops, restaurants, pubs or retailers, we are donating to help restore a vital ecosystem – Gameshope Loch Peatland in Scotland. In the 6 months since launch, together, we have officially prevented a projected 1 million kgs of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. Our target over the next six months is to triple that and so this year, simply by choosing to shop at St. Pancras International’s retailers, for your daily shot of espresso to your 2022 book club reading list, a G&T with friends or presents for loved ones, you will automatically be helping contribute.

We’re so proud to be supporting an incredibly important cause that will make a real difference. As an example of how vital they are, Peatlands store more Carbon than trees do globally! We hope to raise more awareness of this and let visitors know that every purchase they make at the station helps.

What’s one of your favourite retailers?  

I would have to say Fortnum & Mason – they are such an established and iconic British retailer which have adapted and evolved over time, having been founded in 1707. They have mastered not only the art of a quality product offering, but also an incomparable customer experience and service. They are a particular highlight in our range of impressive retail brands – who doesn’t love to receive a gift from Fortnum’s?

What else have we got to look forward to in the next year or so within the station?

After a year of ongoing lockdown restrictions, we’re thrilled to be announcing very soon some great cultural events at St. Pancras International, so watch this space!