Despite the European recession, which has been especially felt by retailers in Western Europe, on October 30, Europe’s largest shopping mall, Westfield London, opened doors after 13 years of planning and construction. Reportedly 160,000 people cruised the mall during the opening to check out the 43-acre site, including marble walkways, an Atrium, glass roof, leather sofas, and a “luxury” Village zone with swivel chairs. Westfield London hosts some 50 restaurants, 265 retailers, 14 cinemas, and a spa.
What’s interesting about the opening of Westfield London is how mall-culture is changing in Europe, particularly Britain. In the USA, it’s not uncommon for malls to have high-end brands such as Gucci or Christian Dior along with mainstream brands such as The Gap or Victoria Secret. In Britain, class-ism is still strong and shopping in malls, a.k.a. “shopping centres” is considered a rather plebian experience. However at Westfield, they are trying to turn the perception around with high-end stores such as Prada, Gucci, Miu Miu, Versace, Christian Dior, and the like, among the mix. It’s actually the first Prada store to be housed in a “shopping centre” in Europe.
On the other end of the retail experience are high street stores such as Zara, Topshop, and H&M, creating a diverse mix of shoppers. The good thing about Topshop at Westfield was that they provided some of their limited-edition collections here such as Alice McCall and Peter Jensen. We expect that H&M will also debut various special collaborations in the future at this location.
Unfortunately, many stores were not yet open, particularly in the luxury Village zone. Rumor has it that some are not rushing to open their doors and waiting to see how it all works out. If opening day was any consolation however, this could be one of the best things to happen to London retail in a long time.