Primark is eyeing a huge store in the £1.5bn flagship shopping centre of the 2012 London Olympics, as the line-up for the Australian developer Westfield's scheme in east London takes shape.
Other retailers interested in signing up to Westfield Stratford City are thought to include Adidas, Boots, WH Smith, H&M, Next and Topshop, as well as Forever 21, the US fashion brand that could open its first UK store there.
Sources said that Westfield was late in starting its recruitment drive for the centre and as recently as October the developer had signed up just three retailers – the anchor tenants John Lewis, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer – out of 300 units. But the east London site, which is one of the few major schemes to open in the next five years, is starting to gain traction among retailers.
Primark, the discount fashion retailer owned by Associated British Foods, is interested in a 70,000 sq ft store in Westfield Stratford, which is set to open in September 2011. The discount retailer, which has 196 stores across Europe, has stormed through the recession and is keen to expand its store estate both in the UK and abroad.
This year, it opened its first stores in Germany, Portugal and Belgium and is thought to be planning to make its debut in Austria in 2010. Market sources said that Primark's longer-term targets include Poland and Russia, as well as India and China further down the line. Primark declined to comment.
Westfield said yesterday: "There is a strong and growing level of interest in our Westfield Stratford City project as retailers get a sense of the strategic nature of the scheme, the outstanding transport connectivity and the lack of new supply coming on to the market."
Sources said that Adidas was interested in at least one site in the scheme. The property specialists CBRE and DTZ are the acting letting agents for Westfield Stratford.
Westfield is believed to have planned originally to open the scheme in east London in June 2011, but has now pushed back the opening date to September of that year. Yesterday, the developer said it has not yet set an opening date for Westfield Stratford.
However, Westfield Stratford has several factors in its favour that are starting to draw retailers in. The centre will be served by two Underground lines, the Docklands Light Railway, overland trains and a high-speed rail link. It will also be one of the few major retail developments to open before 2014, as developers have been forced to put other schemes on hold during the credit crisis.
Separately, Monday's bank holiday was the busiest shopping day of the year, reaffirming the buoyant start to the clearance sales. The total number of shoppers at non-food retail outlets was 1.2 per cent higher than the previous busiest day of the year, the final Saturday before Christmas, and a whopping 27.5 per cent up on this year's bumper Boxing Day, revealed Synovate Retail Performance.
However, Synovate's Tim Denison said the strong data was not "symptomatic of a dramatic bounce-back in consumer confidence", but rather reflected consumers making big-ticket purchases before VAT goes back to 17.5 per cent on Friday, and the fact that most retailers resisted launching their mainstream sales before Christmas. Synovate said that total footfall for the week commencing 20 December was 8.1 per cent down on the previous week, and 14 per cent down on the corresponding seven days in 2008, partially reflecting the snowy and icy conditions before Christmas this year.