I spent a few hours down at the new Stratford shopping centre opened by Westfield right next to Stratford train station and the Olympic site over the weekend. The centre is not without its detractors, particularly given that it benefited from a 200 million GBP government subsidy for roads and other infrastructure.
Thoughts and observations
Arrival – It was opening weekend for the mall and thus would give a good indication for the kind of chaos that would ensue, the front entrances to the station were a choke point, this was probably exasperated by the fact that the adjacent Stratford bus station had been closed. Given what I saw, getting to and from the Olympic site is likely to be quite an unpleasant experience unless you are shuttled by car as a VIP.
Retail units – Westfield had done a good job of concealing how many empty retail spaces it had opened with, by artfully dressing the spaces in a way that merchandisers at the likes of Selfridges would have been proud of. Some of the other stores like Getty Images felt more like pop-up retail spaces than permanent mall tenants. I did wonder how many of the prestigious tenants like Omega, Folli Follie and the on-site casino would remain after the Olympics had run its course?
Shoppers and gawkers – I guess this rolls on from the previous point about tenants and my data is purely what I saw rather than any detailed retail analysis but whilst there was a huge amount of footfall through the mall, there didn’t seem to be that much happening within the stores themselves.
The real action seemed to be in the food court (pictured above).
Legacy – if Westfield Stratford becomes something less than its current manifestation or folds up post-Olympics, it will likely have also put many of the shops in Stratford out of business, starving them of footfall in economic hard times; which makes worry about what kind of Olympic legacy the area will enjoy.