I have been perplexed by some reports in the national press in recent days that have questioned the sanity of Westfield opening its £1.6 billion behemoth of a shopping mall in White City, west London, just as the UK teeters on the brink of a recession.
This is a project that in one form or another has been more than a decade in the making. What was Westfield supposed to do once construction was completed and (not quite) all the retailers had fitted out their stores? Leave it shut for a few months to see how things panned out? That really would have been madness.
As it is, it is an achievement in itself that the Australian shopping mall firm has delivered a construction of this scale – the 43-acre site is bigger than both the new Wembley and the Millennium Dome. However, the only disappointment is that it won’t be fully open when London Mayor Boris Johnson cuts the ribbon on October 30.
As Drapers went to press it had become clear that a number of luxury brands were not ready to open their stores in The Village wing of the development, including Louis Vuitton, whose decision to open in the mall was the subject of much press hype. It is a shame, but it was perhaps a bit much for us to expect that every last store would be ready, particularly when so many new concepts are being installed.
Whether the scheme delivers its promised 21 million shoppers a year remains to be seen, but it will certainly deliver plenty of inspiration.
For news and video reports of Westfield London, plus retailer and shopper reaction to its opening, visit www.drapersonline.com, and don’t forget to tell us what you think.
Lauretta Roberts, Editor