Returning to Westfield Stratford two weeks after opening showed that trade had settled down after the first day frenzy, but that the shoppers now are the ones retailers will want

By the time I left Westfield Stratford City on opening day I was ready to kill someone. It wasn’t just the size of the crowds, but the fact that quite a few of them actually quite aggressive and unpleasant in many respects. That’s not Westfield’s fault, but that the event drew a lot of people with not much else to do on the first day and it didn’t feel like the aspirational place the developer set out for it to be.

That’s often the case on a shopping centre’s opening day, and everything I’d heard from retailers since has been very positive though so I was looking forward to going down there today for the opening of the H&M store, and to interview its UK boss Magnus Olsson, which will appear in next week’s issue. The queue for the H&M store was very much the aggessive bargain hunters we saw opening day - one woman unbelievably took H&M’s PR to task because the free gift voucher she was given was only worth £5 - but in general the centre seems to be bedding down nicely.

It was busy, but comfortably busy, and the smaller crowds made it easier to appreciate what a good job certain retailers - notably M&S - have done with their stores. Some stores were quieter - Forever 21, packed on Day 1, feels as overspaced as it did in Birmingham, while judging from Waitrose it doesn’t appear to be establishing itself as a food destination yet. Empiest of all was Hollister, which bizarrely was closed after a flood in the stockroom, which was causing a great deal of distress to a pushy parent stuck outside when I was passing.

But on the whole not only was the number of shoppers healthy, they were a healthier mix of locals and home counties shoppers, different demographics and they weren’t just browsing, they were buying. The catering was rammed at lunchtime. Apparently weekend trade has been particularly good and - while there remain a few shops to let, especially on the outside street, and one or two quieter spots like the dog-leg HMV and Sports Direct are on - Westfield appears to have worked its magic again.