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Croydon mall will have tech focus

Developers Westfield and Hammerson are looking to turn their joint £1bn scheme in Croydon into a fully integrated multichannel shopping centre, with a focus on digital technology and social media.

The development, which received the thumbs up from the local council on Monday, will “keep pace” with the evolving digital needs of the general public.

John Burton, director of development at Westfield, told Drapers: “We’re living in a digital world and that has had an incredible impact on how we operate, particularly regarding social media.

“We are moving at an incredible pace. For our last two Westfield projects, operations such as click-and-collect were distant dots, so for Croydon we want to speak to retailers about how to develop apps, get their social media stamp across and communicate to their customers.”

Although Burton did not go into detail, there has been a spate of technological advances at other shopping centres. Rival landlord Intu has launched a transactional app which offers tailored deals to consumers as they walk past participating retailers.

Burton added the retail mix had to be “exciting” enough to tempt shoppers away from rival shopping centres and into Croydon.

“We have to get the brand mix right to stand out from other parts of London,” he said. “Local people who should be shopping here are not satisfied with the current offer. This borough used to be top of the tree in terms of retail but it has slipped well down – we need to provide a convincing offer to restore it to its former glory.”

While retailers have yet to be secured for the development, it will target businesses from across the board including British chains and US retailers.

Carolyn Kenney, development director at Hammerson, said: “There isn’t a lot that we can’t deliver in such an extensive retail space. It’s now up to the leasing teams to optimise that space and get the mix right. Everyone has an opportunity to thrive there, including smaller independent retailers.”

She added: “Smaller retailers recognise the benefit of the scheme; it will bring people back to the area, which can only be good for business.”

The Croydon Partnership will merge the town’s two main shopping centres, The Whitgift Centre and Centrale. The Whitgift is to be demolished and replaced with a 1.5 million sq ft mall in the same vein as Westfield’s Stratford and White City schemes.

Work to transform The Whitgift will commence in 2015, with a view to opening in 2018.

The scheme will provide 5,000 jobs and more than £30m towards local transport improvements and employment and training benefits.

However, not everyone has welcomed the development. Minerva, which owns the former Allders building, issued a statement saying the decision “shows a clear disregard for the interests and stakeholders of Croydon”.

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