London's brand new Westfield shopping mall opened last week in Shepherds Bush /White City and is the largest urban mall in Europe with over 150,000 sq m of retail space at a cost of £1.7m. This is a retail planner's dream with the ability to start from scratch in terms of ideal brand adjacencies coupled with a premium courtship of retailers from around the world with a key location and must-visit mall of the future. A win-win situation for consumers and retailers alike that ensures shoppers stay all day - just like I did.
The first of three major mall developments from international mall operator Westfield (the next is in Stratford in time for the Olympics), the west London location is all set to become a destination shopping hotspot to rival other south of England malls such as Bluewater or Lakeside - which look dated in comparison now. And the best thing about the new Westfield London is that its full to the brim with new retail concepts - after Westfield developers gave retailers the challenge to push boundaries when it came to store design innovation.
A host of retailers launched new store concepts at the mall that is anchored by Marks & Spencer, Next, House of Fraser and Debenhams with Waitrose as key supermarket anchor for food.
Fashion brands lead the way for launching new store concepts. House of Fraser was the major anchor retail tenant to pass on the challenge to its vendors to focus on innovation - with Whistles a clear leader in the new formats launch game. New CEO of Whistles, Jane Shepherdson was there on opening day to check out the brand new calmer, cleaner, pale store design that allows customers to browse the collections with focus.
Elsewhere M&S looked to have placed new importance on its visual merchandising with a runway running through the middle of the ground floor full of mannequins. A focus on each of its sub-brands with clear concession areas can only work in the retailers favour - from Autograph to Limited Collection and the best-selling Per Una. The new Patricia Field for M&S celebrity collection is merchandised centre stage and is full of the New York City super stylist's character.
A walk through Next's giant corner site leaves no lifestyle dressing option unturned with all the retailer's merchandise categories catered for - known for kidswear and homewear the retailer and mail-order giant dedicated its ground floor areas to these best selling products.
Meanwhile many retailers debuted brand new retail formats including New Look, Ted Baker, Oasis and Topshop from the high-street sector. Topshop's new store layout - featuring giant neon framed boxes for mannequins and a clubby atmosphere - will be the same as the New York flagship now slated to open in February. Ted Baker's latest store was based on greyhound racing according to founder Ray Kelvin who said the store would do well as part of the west London location. Barratts and Aldo also put new footwear concepts to the test while Terra-Plana and Timberland both unveiled new sustainable retail designs using reclaimed wood. Some retailers even had fun with their new shop fits - I loved Camper's "X marks the spot meet me here" store. Plus it was first time around for a handful of overseas retailers including Ugg, Pull & Bear, Hollister and Matchka.
Meanwhile the hoards of half-term shoppers praised the new site as catering to their every whim - from high-street to department store to luxury designer brands in the dedicated "Designer Village" area that saw many vendors missing the opening deadline day. Reports suggested the luxury brands involved blamed "complicated and luxury shop fits" for the delay. Only a handful opened on time including Christian Dior, Tiffany, Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger, Hackett, Myla, Twenty Eight Twelve and Donna Ida boutiques. Prada, Miu Miu, Mulberry and Gucci are all scheduled to open by December with Louis Vuitton finally opening by March.
There were over 160,000 visitors on opening day according to Westfield executives who said consumers were defying the credit crunch by voting with their feet and supporting London's new shopping centre.
Here's looking forward to the East End version coming soon to Stratford.
For a mall tour in pictures see below selection plus my Picasa album:
|Westfield London mall tour inside|