David Prosser: Westfield: right place beats wrong time


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The Independent Online

Outlook The first-day crowds may have been huge, but has Westfield, the giant shopping centre operator, chosen just about the worst moment to open Europe's largest retail mall in East London? After all, the Institute of Fiscal Studies warned on Monday that household incomes are likely to remain depressed for a decade.

The answer is no. For one thing, Westfield's gamble has already paid off – the centre is almost completely let to big-name retailers. For another, the site, adjacent to the Olympic Park, makes this a different proposition.

Putting those thoughts aside, however, Westfield's new opening is smart because it is in the right place. Forget the statistics about incomes in the London Borough of Newham, for Stratford has almost unrivalled transport links that mean its net will be cast far and wide.

Westfield Stratford can succeed, even in an economic environment where the retail battle is for share of a static market. But its success will be at the expense of less well-placed rivals – shops in central London, the Canary Wharf complex and the Lakeside and Bluewater centres that sit either side of the Thames estuary.