Westfield London is taking shape fast. I visited the giant west London shopping centre last Friday, as the Australian developer gears up to start the marketing campaign to make consumers aware of what the new centre is all about.
And I was impressed with what I saw. The scale of the centre – which includes 1.5 million sq ft of retail space – is dramatic and very different to anything London has seen before.
But it’s not just the size that marks the centre out as being different. Throughout the marketing process, the developer has gone out of its way to claim the scheme is a break from the shopping centre norm. Seeing what has been done with The Village – the dedicated area reserved for luxury retail – where the finishes look of a quality never before seen in a UK shopping centre, suggests to me that its claims will be justified.
Much will depend on how the services – such as a concierge to look after well-off shoppers – are implemented in practice. Shopping centres haven’t been much good at this sort of thing traditionally but, if the services match up to the high standard of the development, the West End will have much to fear. The developer is at great pains to point out that this is not a battle between the West End and Westfield – don’t you believe it. A scheme of this size needs to draw shoppers from across its catchment and, frankly, it will.
It’s five stops and 10 minutes on the tube from Marble Arch to Shepherd’s Bush. It can take that long to cross the road at Oxford Circus at busy times of the day. As a lifelong Londoner, it pains me to say it but Oxford Street is utterly miserable and crying out for pedestrianisation and the soulless top end of Bond Street isn’t much better. Only Regent Street is something to be proud of, but most of its flagship stores – such as Apple – will be replicated at Westfield. The outlook is grim indeed.