Olympic 2012 gateway, Europe’s biggest shopping centre opens in East London

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High quality global journalism requires investment. Mayor of London Boris Johnson helps Chairman and co-founder of the Westfield group Frank Lowy (2nd right) , cut a ribbon to officially open the Westfield Stratford City shopping centre in east London, Europe's largest urban shopping centre and gateway to the new Olympic Park. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday September 13, 2011. The venue will be home to more than 300 shops, 70 restaurants, a 14-screen cinema, three hotels, a bowling alley and the UK's largest casino.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson helps Chairman and co-founder of the Westfield group Frank Lowy (2nd right) , cut a ribbon to officially open the Westfield Stratford City shopping centre in east London, Europe’s largest urban shopping centre and gateway to the new Olympic Park. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday September 13, 2011. The venue will be home to more than 300 shops, 70 restaurants, a 14-screen cinema, three hotels, a bowling alley and the UK’s largest casino.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson helps Chairman and co-founder of the Westfield group Frank Lowy (2nd right) , cut a ribbon to officially open the Westfield Stratford City shopping centre in east London, Europe’s largest urban shopping centre and gateway to the new Olympic Park. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday September 13, 2011. The venue will be home to more than 300 shops, 70 restaurants, a 14-screen cinema, three hotels, a bowling alley and the UK’s largest casino.

More than a hundred thousand shoppers have descended on East London for the opening of Westfield Stratford City, Europe’s largest shopping centre which forms the gateway to London’s Olympic Park.

In the midst of a consumer downturn, many had questioned the launch of such a large retail development in an untested location, but the £1.45bn project from Australian developer Westfield has opened 95 per cent full.

Anchor tenants John Lewis and Marks & Spencers have opened some of their largest new stores in the capital for decades, and retailers from the US and across Europe are well represented, including Forever 21, Hollister, Zara and H&M.

However, dozens of “faux shops” dotted around the centre’s 250 stores and 70 restaurants, are evidence that some retailers deferred signing up until the centre was nearly completed. The developer says they will begin trading in the run-up to Christmas.

Frank Lowy, Westfield’s founder and chairman, said he expected more than 20m people a year to visit the “virtual city” each year, which also contains a casino, bowling alley, cinema, hotels and office buildings. “This kind of activity on such a massive scale has been missing in East London,” he said.

London mayor Boris Johnston officially opened the centre on Tuesday, stating that together with the Olympics, it had “triggered regeneration this part of London has not seen since the Middle Ages”. Flanked by retailers including Sir Philip Green and Marc Bolland, the mayor’s ribbon cutting ceremony was followed by a live performance from Nicole Sherzinger, the US artiste and former member of the Pussycat Dolls.

Describing the Olympic Games as “the catalyst” for the development, Michael Gutman, Westfield’s UK managing director, said he expects three quarters of the anticipated 300,000 visitors a day will pass through the centre on their way to the Olympic Park next year. After the games have finished, Westfield is betting that “the four million people in the catchment area, the lack of competition and Stratford’s amazing transport connections” will continue to draw in the crowds. “We are here because we have studied the market very carefully,” he added.

Shoppers from the local area who visited on the centre’s opening day were struck by the scale of the development, which boasts a 400m long triple-height mall, plus outdoor streets and direct connections to Stratford International train station.

Retail experts believe that nearby shopping centres such as Lakeside, Bluewater and Canary Wharf will see a dip in visitor numbers now that Stratford City has opened.

“Living in East London, we’ve had to travel away to visit shops and restaurants like this,” said Jean Dash, a retired further education manager from nearby Leytonstone. “To get a shopping centre like this just drop all at once means we’re pinching ourselves,” said her husband, Paul Dash, a university lecturer. “Let’s hope people actually use it, and we won’t see shops close down in the future. It’s so extraordinary there’s a fear it could decline after the Olympics.”

Mayor of London Boris Johnson helps Chairman and co-founder of the Westfield group Frank Lowy (2nd right) , cut a ribbon to officially open the Westfield Stratford City shopping centre in east London, Europe’s largest urban shopping centre and gateway to the new Olympic Park. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday September 13, 2011. The venue will be home to more than 300 shops, 70 restaurants, a 14-screen cinema, three hotels, a bowling alley and the UK’s largest casino.

Thousands were attracted to the new Shopping Complex on Tuesday. Photo by Dare Lasisi

 

 

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