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Retail theatre

Reiss is set to grab the limelight with its new look at Westfield Stratford, but other stores will also impress 

Retail is not just about product any more. You have to have a presence; a sense of theatre,” says Reiss founder David Reiss, less than two weeks before he unveils a new concept for the premium retailer at the Westfield Stratford City shopping centre in east London.

The new format launched at New York department store Bloomingdale’s two weeks ago, but this will be Reiss’s first standalone store to feature the new look. And its founder is excited. “We’re making a powerful statement,” he says, smiling and clenching his fists. “[The format] is about making the clothes stand out. It’s a bit more luxury, much cooler and a concept we can move globally.”

The latter is key to Reiss’s strategy, with openings in Hong Kong, Dubai, Qatar, Indonesia and Australia in the pipeline. What we’ll see at Stratford, according to brand director Andy Rogers, is a concept of “effortless cool”. On a practical level, this translates as a large shopfront with curved glass windows, freestanding fixtures and a hand-painted silk wall panel. “Other brands drop their ceilings, but we’ve opened our store up,” says Rogers. “Other stores compartmentalise their offer; we’ve opened ours up.”

Technology will also form a key part of the new 4,700 sq ft concept, with in-store screens available for consumers to browse the current collection and campaign images. The plan is to allow shoppers to buy from the terminals if a particular product isn’t in stock. “The aim is to be a multichannel retailer as soon as possible,” says Rogers.

But the in-store experience will remain paramount. “Service is so important,” says Reiss. “Shopping is one of the world’s favourite pastimes and you can’t get that touchy-feeling online. And with a tough retail environment, that’s why you always need a point of difference, you have to offer something special.”

Reiss admits UK trading is “OK”, with certain areas performing well, and others more challenging, notably in the North. “But the East End customer will be a good customer,” he says. “They’re a loyal customer and dressing up is important to them.” 

A first look inside Westfield Stratford City

Donning a hard hat and safety goggles, Drapers’ online editor Keely Stocker and I were given a tour of Westfield Stratford City less than two weeks before this retail behemoth – Europe’s biggest urban mall, according to Westfield – opens its doors.

The centre is 95% let, and some stores, including Primark, Next, Superdry and Footasylum looked ready for business, but others looked like they’d struggle to make the September 13 opening.  

Westfield Stratford City

Westfield Stratford City

Of what I could see, I was particularly impressed with River Island – its green, glazed brickwork unveiled earlier this year in Swindon stands out among itsneighbours – and John Lewis also makes a statement with its Celtic-style knots on the exterior. Topshop will have a catwalk, a brilliant move to stamp its authority as a trend-setting retailer, but it looks as if it will be a static runway with mannequins.

As for the centre itself, it has a very – and arguably unsurprising – ‘Westfield’ feel to it. Walking through it, I had a sense of being at the White City development in west London, which opened three years ago. It has that similar openness and clean aesthetic, but features like parquet flooring give it a point of difference.

This one feels even bigger too, and that’s because it is, at 1.9 million sq ft to White City’s 1.6 million sq ft. However, the curved structures, lack of pillars – the longest sight line is 200m – and open spaces help to reduce that claustrophobic feel that some shopping centres have.

See more pictures from Westfield Stratford City,

Westfiled Stratford City Essentials

£1.45bn

Cost of development

300

Number of stores

95%

Occupancy rate to date

1.9m sq ft

Size of retail and leisure space

Stores to watch

Fashion Rocks

Fashion Rocks

Fashion Rocks

Designed by TUW, this 12,000 sq ft unit will be on The Street, one of several outdoor areas. It will include espresso bars and touch-screen technology.

The Sting

The Sting

The Sting

At over 21,395 sq ft across two floors, Danish retailer The Sting will bring key features from its European stores to London, notably its LED lift.

Forever 21

Forever 21

Forever 21

Directly opposite anchor retailer Marks & Spencer, Forever 21’s 68,014 sq ft store will offer all the US retailer’s sub-brands.

John Lewis

John Lewis

John Lewis

A Stratford anchor store, this £35m and 260,000 sq ft store’s interior will feature paintings and installations.

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