Bluewater has had a bit of a rough ride recently.
Once a destination shopping centre, a shiny gem found in an excavated quarry in Kent, its more recent history has been a bit rocky as big retailers have come and gone and the mix of premium and value avenues has made for a slightly schizophrenic personality.
To compound this the centre has also had the threat of Westfield Stratford appearing on the horizon, drawing crowds over the river and away from its catchment area. Historically, Bluewater had always been perceived to be the most upmarket centre for miles (Lakeside in Thurrock operated a little in its shadow after Bluewater opened over the QE2 Bridge in 1999) but the arrival of Westfield out east stole its thunder somewhat last September.
When Drapers visited to see what it had in store for the men, it was clear there has been a bit of a spruce up, with new, more mid-market eating establishments complementing some of the recent retailing arrivals. Some, like Uniqlo and Ted Baker, have recognised the potential of the centre by opening new stores or moving to bigger units, and it was this feeling of a fresh start that sat nicely with the largely up-to-speed menswear ranges on show during this visit. Bluewater may be dominated by the three huge Marks & Spencer, John Lewis and House of Fraser marquee stores at each corner, but it was mostly in-between those big units where the more interesting stories lay. All in all the centre comes across as a diamond in the rough - come take a look as we unearth the gems its menswear stores have to offer right now.
Stores visited on March 29 to 30, and April 2. View the full report here.