Four years after construction began on Westfield London’s £600m extension, Drapers tours the site and its £33m John Lewis anchor, to find out how the shopping centre plans to attract new customers ahead of the March opening.
Nearly a decade after Westfield London first opened in Shepherd’s Bush in 2008 with its £1.6bn development, the site is once again poised to complete a hefty construction project.
Set to open in March, its £600m expansion will add 740,000 sq ft of retail, dining, entertainment and leisure space to the shopping centre, bringing its total leasable area to 2.6m sq ft.
A new public square will be installed, with scope to host events and entertainment. This will be near two Underground tube stations, Wood Lane and White City, as well as 1,522 new nearby homes created as part of the development.
The layout is a more accessible retail environment, says director of development Duncan Bower: “When people talk about shopping centres, they think about internalised, inward-looking spaces.
“This is a way of externalising the shopping centre on a [bigger scale]. Our Southern Terrace (its pedestrianised parade of restaurants) does this to an extent, but that’s more of a street. This will be more of a town square, which is a major departure from what we’ve done before.”
The two-floor extension, which has also evolved to include a complex 25m high “ribbon roof” as well as edge lighting and curved balustrades, will be the shopping centre’s “high street of flagships” zone. It will also add offices on top of its build, and 1,000 parking spaces to its existing 4,500.
The addition of 90 shops, including its new four-floor John Lewis department store, brings the complex’s total store count to 450. Bower estimates that 92% of the extension has been let so far.
Westfield London’s most recent set of results show it generated footfall from 27.4 million shoppers and £996m in retail sales in the year to 31 December 2016. Bower anticipates strong upticks for both figures when the expansion opens.
“John Lewis will be a big draw, and then, as we open more [stores] and create events in the square, we’ll be growing [our numbers] even more,” says Bower.
The extension will open its doors next month, as will John Lewis. Other stores in the development will launch in the months leading to the centre’s 10-year anniversary on 30 October.
It’s about reinventing the John Lewis department store for the 21st century
Maggie Porteous, John Lewis
Spanning 220,000 sq ft, 160,000 of which will be shop floor and services space and the remainder as back of house functions, it will be the largest shop on Westfield London’s site, starting off with £11m of stock. The average shop floor across the retailer’s stores is around three-quarters the size, at 155,000 sq ft.
Proportionally, it will be the store with the least amount of back-of-house space in the John Lewis estate, reducing its stockroom areas by around 28%. Head of branch Ruth Scharvona says this will “avoid carrying weeks of obsolete stock”.
The main aspect that sets this store apart from other John Lewis shops, says director for shop trade Maggie Porteous, is that it will offer the highest number of services in one location. There will be 23, including its “experience desk” concept to guide shoppers around the store, a “discovery room” where customers can learn new skills such as cooking and crafts, a spa and an in-house optician.
Porteous said: “It’s about reinventing the John Lewis department store for the 21st century. And that’s not only about retail and shopping, but about how our customers can have a fabulous experience in shops as well – inspiring them with amazing product and great services and opportunities to learn.”
Fashion, particularly own-brand, is “at the heart” of the offering, says Porteous, alongside technology. Customers accessing John Lewis from the first floor will find a new-concept womenswear floor, split into four different zones, anchored by its own brands. In the “luxurious” area, Modern Rarity is positioned to be the first brand shoppers see, the contemporary zone showcases Kin, and the denim section is underpinned by And/Or. It will also be the first London store to feature the contemporary John Lewis womenswear concept Loved & Found womenswear, in a 3,000 sq ft space with a “boutique lifestyle” feel.Each brand will have its own shop-fit.
The new womenswear area embodies John Lewis’s goal to increase in-house brands to 50% of its total product mix, as outlined last year by managing director Paula Nickolds.
Porteous says: “Our own brands are anchoring each of the four different areas because we’re very proud of them. The focus on them is much stronger than before.”
The store, which was “still confirming its final brand mix” at the time of writing, has also set aside a space for events, such as trunk shows and mini catwalks, for both its own brands and the labels it stocks.
Downstairs, menswear will take up “nearly a third” of the ground floor, and will include a men’s personal styling service. On the same level, its area for customer collection points will be more prominent than it is in other stores.
“Some of our existing ones feel [peripheral], but this will be very open and part of the central offering,” explains Scharvona. “Customer collection [needs to] look important, as customers nowadays shop with whatever channel is convenient to them at the time.”
“This is such a vibrant part of London,” says Scharvona. “The majority of our customers will be young professionals, in their 20s or 30s; some may own their own homes, but the majority will rent. There will be some families and also quite a few tourists given our [relative] proximity to Heathrow.”
The Drapers Verdict
Westfield London was a retail game changer when it opened 10 years ago, but with added entry points, space for large-scale events and the lure of prominent new tenants such as John Lewis, it looks set to turn up the heat even more on rival shopping destinations. The new John Lewis is the epitome of retailers using experiences to counter the decline in bricks-and-mortar shopping. It will be interesting to see how shoppers respond.