Westfield London opened with a fanfare that was bound to feel a bit out of sync with the mood of retailers and the media.
This is the last in a round of key shopping developments and may even be the last until Westfield’s Stratford scheme. No developer is going to commit to that scale of development in the foreseeable future.
This is not the first time we have seen such a downturn. The early 1980s and 1990s were difficult and this time around it may be even tougher, but the market has grown stronger in that period by focusing on the activities that made a difference to customers. Perhaps we are better prepared this time around.
For many retailers, refurbishments will replace expansion plans, but that can have its rewards. There are still far too many bad retailers and some shops will close while others
We have to recognise that there is potential in the next few years, as expanding in a recession can double your advantage while others stall. I recall our Chelsea Girl to River Island rebrand rolling out in 1990 at a rate of five stores a week, and the rest is history.
In these uncertain times retailers need inbuilt flexibility, concepts that can respond to market developments and be easily morphed when change is required. In a market that is depressed, newness and rejuvenation are crucial. It is the retailer’s job to be optimistic; if we are unsure, shoppers will lose confidence.
I believe we will see a new austerity, a new reality that creates interesting challenges. Trust and reassurance will need to underpin brands and customers will take comfort in shopping, dwelling longer and spending less.
David Dalziel is founder of store design agency Dalziel & Pow