|Will White City Mega-Mall Crush Local Business?|
Traders face threat from UK's second largest shopping centre
Westfield, the world's largest listed retail property company, is set to change the face of retail in West London when it opens its new flagship development – “Westfield London” – at White City in 2008. Beneath a spectacular, undulating glass roof, the £1.6 billion Westfield London destination will combine over 150,000m2 of retail, restaurants, cafes, bars and leisure facilities to create the ultimate shopping and leisure destination.
The new London landmark will include four anchor stores and 265 speciality shops and will house flagship stores of Marks and Spencer, Debenhams, Waitrose, and Next. Three levels of undercover high-end retail designed by acclaimed architect, Michael Gabellini will be solely dedicated to luxury and designer fashion brands. Add to that a state-of-the-art 14-screen cinema complex, a vast indoor atrium to showcase events from live music and fashion shows to cultural and art exhibitions, over 40 places to dine including 15 premium restaurants, al fresco dining terrace and 12 high-tech ‘pods’ showcasing an eclectic mix of European and Pan-Asian cuisines not previously found in UK malls. Westfield will also be easy to access served by 4,500 car parking spaces, a new overland railway, new tube station and two new bus terminals.
Sounds like a retail utopia, however, what of the local traders that West London holds so dear? Did the "Save our Local Shops" campaign fall on deaf council ears? Reaction from the small independents was unsurprising.
One local businessman said "Councils have made it really difficult for people to park and to access shops - even those in shopping centres. As a result, even big stores like Safeway and McDonald's have moved out [of Acton]."
"I don't understand what's so special about Shepherd's Bush. Why has Ealing not given more support to the shops in the shopping centre there? It seems the Council has no consideration for businesses or for residents who lose out when they have to travel further to shop." said another.
A spokesperson from Ealing Council said "The council is concerned, however, there are significant proposals for redevelopment of Ealing town centre which will improve the quality of the environment and we hope attract high-quality retailers to locate here."
According to the developer, Westfield will act as a catalyst for the redevelopment and regeneration of the wider White City area with a further £1bn investment expected in the immediate vicinity over the next 10 years. They believe that the local economy will be boosted by the creation of a number of employment opportunities including 1,000 jobs during the construction phase and 4,000 when the centre opens.
“London now has one of the most vibrant and diverse dining cultures in the world currently undergoing a huge renaissance. The eating, drinking and food retailing offer of Westfield London has been designed to reflect and celebrate this”, said David Slade, Director of Leasing.
“Westfield London understands Londoners’ lifestyles, habits, and above all, their growing passion for food and dining out. It will offer a carefully selected line-up of restaurants, bars, cafes and food shops that cater to all tastes and to all occasions. Be it the need to grab a bite to eat after a long day or to celebrate a special occasion; a place to have a light lunch whilst shopping or a neighbourhood café to make your own.”
The plight of small independents and high street cloning has been well documented in the media however, with this new enormous threat now looming large on the horizon, will Westfield prove to be the straw that finally breaks the camel's back?
September 29, 2006