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Profile: Camille Waxer, vice president of retail, Canary Wharf Group

Canary Wharf will be a major shopping destination sooner rather than later if Camille Waxer has her way.

Some people’s bucket lists include round-the-world trips or jumping out of a plane at 20,000 feet, but Camille Waxer’s grand ambition is rather more grounded.

“I want to get Canary Wharf recognised as a retail destination - not just a place for business,” she says. “That’s the thing I want to do before I die. It’s still a hurdle, and would cost millions to do it through advertising, so we do the next best thing, which is to make it a really good experience and wait for people to spread the word.”

With its demographic of educated urbanites aged 25 to 40, Canary Wharf has had a growing retail presence since its infancy in 1990, when the annual turnover was just £500,000. By the end of 2012 it had a retail turnover of £316m. But this year marks something of a milestone for Waxer, vice president of retail at Canary Wharf Group, with the extension of one of its main retail districts, Jubilee Place, the completion of the building for the new Crossrail station and the creation of the “master plan” for the redevelopment of a 17-acre site, Wood Wharf.

Jubilee Place’s 44,000 sq ft expansion, up from 89,000 sq ft, has seen Banana Republic, Cos, Oliver Bonas, Orlebar Brown, Emmett Shirts and The White Company join existing tenants such as TM Lewin, Phase Eight, LK Bennett and Whistles. Crossrail is expected to double capacity coming into the area when it opens in 2018 - Jubilee Place currently has daily footfall of about 100,000 Monday to Friday, with less on weekends.

But Wood Wharf, just a stone’s throw away from the main Canary Wharf district, is the one with the most potential for fashion retailers.

It will comprise 200,000 sq ft of retail, leisure and food, plus 2.5 million sq ft of housing. In a real departure from the wider development it will seek to replicate the feel of a premium high street, with on-street parking and a tenant mix that Waxer hopes will offer rare, in-demand retailers.

“This will be something really different and it will be a very welcome addition - it’s more of what you expect if you lived in a residential area than a business area. It will have the sort of feel to it that a great high street like Marylebone has.”

No deals have yet been struck, because the planning is only being submitted this month, but Waxer has already started talks with retailers and has been putting together a list of her must-haves. She says independents will feature highly in order to create that unique mix, noting that “Donna Ida would be great here”, but she’s also keen to lure the likes of Coach and MaxMara.

Waxer expects to be oversubscribed with potential tenants, but says she will offer a “different rental structure” to get smaller retailers and start-ups in the mix. “It will be less structured than our other districts,” she adds. “It won’t quite be Shoreditch, but it will definitely feel different.”

She also wants to differentiate Canary Wharf’s offering from that just three-and-a-half miles up the road at Westfield Stratford. “We have less than 40% crossover but we’ve definitely seen an impact to our footfall at weekends. It has dropped but we will continue with our strategy and the new shops will go further away from duplicating Westfield.”

Despite Canary Wharf’s current retail offer being 100% let and having a captive community of at least weekly consumers, Waxer says certain retailers still take some convincing to open there, and that she feels she is “letting down” pregnant women and families who want kidswear.

“That’s an area I’d like to develop because I feel we don’t have enough choice for them, but kidswear retailers don’t see it as a target market. There is a market here but retailers can’t overcome their sense that it’s just business people.”

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