Oracle Shopping Centre
The Oracle is a large indoor shopping and leisure mall on the banks of the River Kennet in Reading, Berkshire, England. On the site of a 17th-century workhouse of the same name, it was developed and is owned by a joint venture of Hammerson and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.
The Oracle takes its name from the 17th century Oracle workhouse built by funds from a local man John Kendrick. This once occupied a small part of the site now occupied by the shopping centre.
In 1997, the property developer Hammerson acquired a 22-acre site of largely derelict and undeveloped land immediately to the south of the town centre. Most of this site was previously occupied by Simond’s Brewery (latterly owned by the Courage brewing company) and by the Reading Buses depot (formerly the Reading Corporation tram depot). The brewery had earlier relocated to a new site adjoining the M4 motorway, whilst the bus depot was relocated to a location just west of the town centre as one of the first phases of the redevelopment.
Hammerson’s strategy was to create a combination of big-name retailers at the new centre, including a number of international retail banners fairly new to Britain. The merchandise mix has strong emphasis on fashion and is slightly higher-end than the average for Reading’s main street shops. Peter Cole, the development director for Hammerson said “We were looking to bring in a retail mix that would enhance what was already there – we wanted to get the right caliber retailers to suit the slightly higher-end shopping demographic of the area.
Stores and facilities
The centre contains 90 shops, including department stores from the Debenhams (136,000 ft²) and House of Fraser (150,000 ft²) chains. A third and larger department store, John Lewis and Partners, is adjacent to the Minster Street entrance but not part of the centre itself. There are also 22 restaurants, cafés and bars along the riverside of the Kennet, and an 11-screen Vue cinema. The Oracle increases Reading’s retail footage by one-third, and it has attracted some retailers who would otherwise not have located in Reading.
In 2002 Reading was named eighth best town centre in the country. In 2007 the Oracle centre was ranked 16th in a league table of best performing retail centres in the UK compiled by economic analyst Experian. In a separate poll carried out by Verdict, Reading was placed 10th in the table of UK shopping destinations