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Westfield Shopping Centre (London)
Member Name: T4imbo3107
Westfield Shopping Centre (London)
Advantages: Big names, big stores!
Disadvantages: Not quite sure as to who this place is aimed at.
Not being put off by the fact that I was walking past empty shops I deliberately arrived around 6:45 in the evening as to try and avoid the crowds. Wrong!!! It seemed just as packed then as I was told it was in the daytime and to be honest was not that impressed with what I saw.
For starters Westfield in my mind doesn't flow at all. What I mean by this is that the layout doesn't allow the 'experience' to be fulfilling. A good example is Bluewater in Kent, the whole place has three malls that are connected in a circular manner so that you just have to walk and also means that you cant get lost. At Westfield it is different as both floors are spacious, yet laid out in a manner that doesn't give an even coverage and therefore you get people walking about the place not actually sure as to what they are looking for or sure where they are actually going which I think is the reason why some people asked me where WH Smiths was located. Fortunately there was a touch screen store locator a few feet from me so I politely guided them there and then found one myself to see what was actually in this vast Cathedral to retail.
I was surprised at the shops that have already opened, for example De Beers diamonds. Not a shop that I would have expected to see in any Mall at all. Also other names like Dior and Jo Malone also had outlets. Now mix this in with the normal well known names that you find everyday in the High Street, names like Debenhams, HMV, Orange and Carphone Warehouse then to me you get a strange mix of shops don't seem to gel together in a positive way as you would get one looking down its nose at the other.
It's safe to say that a lot of companies have set their shops up to be flagships for the company name, none more so evident in a number of shops such as Next or HMV where every effort has been made to make the shop unique to entice the customers in to spend. In my mind the Westfield branch of Next is the best that I have ever been in. It was spotless with a team of floorwalkers stacking the racks as soon as something was removed.
Thee are a number of independent stores that are open as well, great to look in, but do tend to price up the item for a greater profit than other shops of a similar type. Yet this is an area that raises a few concerns as people were not buying much from one of them that I visited and therefore I wonder how long it will be before the smaller shops begin to crash. Again the reason for this was simple, they were too dear. The thing that I looked at was a model of Thunderbird 3. Modelzone sells the same model for £299, in The Collector Zone they were selling this for £400 and unsurprisingly people caught wind of the high prices and were not even entering the shop.
It seems the bigger the name the bigger the shop, all the stores on the upper floor consist of two floors, Next having three and covering all levels, the same as M&S and House of Fraser. The trouble is that when you are walking around the Mall, one minute the corridor narrows and with all the lights and music that in some cases blares outside the shop can give the feeling of claustrophobia, where as round the corner you enter the main flow where people from the stations are entering for the first time and joining the people who have been there some time, again this is down to the layout and doesn't take into account the flow and as I've said above the coverage can be different depending on what area you are in. One can be quiet while another is rammed as there is no evenness at all.
One of the main things that shocked me was the open air cafes, instead of having a store a company like Costa have opened a café in an alfresco manner. No problem but the trouble is that this Café is positioned in the main corridor in the busiest areas of the Mall. This caused quite a few issues as people were lining up outside and this blocked the path of others trying to get by, which in turn held others up and caused a fair amount of blocking. Personally I though this was a stupid idea to start with and found that people were again going to a well known brand rather than an independent that had seating available and were better priced.
The facilities of the Mall were readily sign posted and were clearly marked, but the trouble was that the Men's only had a cubicle and five "positions" to stand at, this lead to a queue being formed outside the Gents! I didn't wait around but went off to find another toilet, where the queue was a bit shorter. The toilets are bright and clean, but whoever did the planning needs to stop counting on their fingers and use a calculator as there are not enough facilities in the place.
Security are dressed smartly in jackets and ties were definitely out in force as they were needed, it was very hot in there, I think this was mainly due to the fact it was crowded but there were also the little gangs of hoodies that were hanging around outside shops or all walking in together into the massive 02 shop. Security knew these were going to be a problem and you could see them on the radios, I felt this was re-assuring on the whole.
I would have liked to have had something to eat while I was there as there is a plethora of restaurants ranging from Yo Sushi! to Tiffinbites. Impressively cuisines from all across the world have been accounted for. There are a number of areas that people can dine in; the most popular seemed to be the Southern Terrace which is where I entered as a lot of the outlets here were filling up with people queuing for a table.
I've been to this part of London a number of times, mainly to BBC related things such as studio recordings. The BBC is directly opposite on the western side of the Mall anyway, but for me this is a strange place to build something like this as it could have such a negative impact on the structure of the environment with local shops. A good example is the fact that opposite the Train Station is the Vue Multiplex, shortly the Showcase Cinema will be opening in Westfield, so the big question will be who will win the battle. I suspect that Westfield will win as the Showcase Cinema will be state of the art, but again this is impacting the area in really an unnecessary manner.
Even though it was around 7pm that I went, the Mall was in no way quiet as it was still frantically busy, with Westfield being open till 8pm on a Saturday and 10pm on a weekday in the run up to Christmas I was just thankful that I didn't go on a Sunday. Locally this has had a questionable impact on the surrounding area as the traffic levels around the infamous Shepherds Bush one way system have rocketed as the local roads become jammed, not surprising as the decision was made to have only 4500 spaces for parking and even though the emphasis is on public transport the buses seem to have been a victim as well it takes them longer to go through Shepherds Bush than before.
The transport links are the strongest thing that the Mall has going for it, with a train station on the doorstep that has a regular service south to Brighton and north to Milton Keynes, this is a strong selling point, coming home took me just 9 minutes to return to Clapham Junction to get my connection to Sutton. With three separate stations for the London Underground as well including the recently re-opened Shepherds Bush Central Line Station. Other stations include White City and the newly renamed Wood Lane station. This was renamed as this was also called Shepherds Bush but was part of the Hammersmith and City Line, so to avoid confusion it was renamed to Wood Lane. All stations have their own dedicated path to get to the required transport link and this also includes the Bus Station as well, this was still under construction when I visited.
Strategically Westfield sits in the middle of the stations, so finding the place isn't hard, I would strongly advise leaving the car behind as only 4500 spaces have been created for cars and at £2 per hour the parking tariff isn't at all cheap. The funniest observation was that most of the cars coming out of the car park were mainly Chelsea Tractors! Perhaps this says that the local people are using this as their corner shop.
Overall I was pretty disappointed with Westfield; my preference for shopping has not changed as it is still Bluewater that is my preferred location, and besides Lakeside being 20 minutes away over the bridge allows a greater level of stress free shopping to be undertaken. There are a number of reasons for this, put simply the facilities at Bluewater are better, more parking, free parking, a better standard of lavatories and for me a wider range of shops that I can afford to buy items from. In the end I didn't actually buy anything other than some vouchers from Boots that I needed as a lot of the shops just didn't appeal to me at all.
Whether this will succeed or not is a question best left to the Gods of retail, a lot depends on the climate and what level of money people have to spens, I think the down to earth shops will no doubt take more money than the specialist varieties, and this time next year I think we could a totally different type of Mall altogether. There has genuinely been a lot of hype about this place since it opened on 30th October and I felt the hype was not justified at all, not sure as to whether or not this place was specifically aimed for people like me or not. I just found that the place was too busy, too loud with inflated prices.
Summary: Bluewater is by far a better place to shop!