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Westfield - retail maul
Westfield Shopping Centre (London)
Member Name: platinumbl
Westfield Shopping Centre (London)
Advantages: Strong transport links, indoors, huge choice.
Disadvantages: Crowded, expensive, ugly.
Westfield London is an indoor shopping centre in Shepherd's Bush, London.
I hate it, yet find myself there several times a month.
Growing up in inner London I've never been to any large shopping malls such as Lakeside or Blue Water which are located further out in Greater London. I can't compare them to Westfield but I believe this is the reason why Westfield was built; there are no large-scale indoor shopping centres in London. Westfield seems to be an attempt of an indoor and more compact Oxford Street.
SHOPPING AT WESTFIELD
With over 260 stores, it's the biggest inner-city shopping centre in Europe. It's huge, too huge, so expect crowds and to get lost at least once. Touch-screen maps are located around all floors but the interfaces on these are poor; they take ages to respond, freeze, only display one store at a time and frequently completely crash so queues are always formed. On my first visit to Westfield, on its opening day, every interactive map had broken down. If you want a printed map you will have to request one at the help desk.
What makes Westfield unique apart from its size are the premium designer shops. A rarity in shopping malls, Westfield has an area called The Village located at the entrance at Shepherd's Bush Green end. 34+ black label brands including Dior, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Miu Miu, Gucci and Tiffany & Co are located here. As most of these stores are usually empty of customers, its location is ideal to avoid crowding around the entrance.
Searcys, a champagne bar is the focal point between Tiffany & Co, Dior and De Bears.
So far, Westfield feels like a world away from any typical shopping mall. However, after passing The Village and into the main area, it's a different story. The main area holds all your main high-street stores, all with large floor space and friendly staff.
There are four dominate department stores, one in each corner - House of Fraser, Debenhams, Next and M&S all occupying three floors and each trying to out-do one another in terms of size. Other popular stores include; Apple, HMV, H&M, ZARA, UGG Australia, Jimmy Choo, Boots, MAC, LUSH, L'Occitane, Timberland, Alessi, Habitat, Laura Ashley, Links of London, Myla, Addidas, Topshop. Most of these shops are too expensive for me and make it impossible to find a bargain. Shops that surprsingly are missing are Urban Outfitters, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge & Primark.
A Waitrose supermarket is situated next to the entrance underneath House of Fraser.
Banks are Halifax, ICE Bureau de Change & Natwest. There are shockingly very few ATMs which are hard to find. They are tucked away next to the toilets in The Village (ground floor).
The building itself is clean and spacious, but the design is tacky; giant hot pink chandeliers attached to high undulating roofs and random white sculptures covered in moss.
Places to eat are plentiful and located on all floors as well as outside.
The price of food ranges, though Westfield could offer more budget-friendly family restaurants.
The Loft & The Balcony are Westfield's food courts, with the most impressive range I've ever seen in a food court. The Loft is the more family-friendly court (Nandos, Byron, Pizza Express and Spaghetti House). The Balcony is for communal dining, although still child-friendly with places like Pho and Chip+Fish which are both very popular (so queues for tables form). Pho sells decent medium-sized portions of noodles which are reasonably priced at £6.45 to £7.95. Chip+Fish is a new restaurant unique to Westfield.
Overall the food here is very good but there is not much choice for those wishing to eat on a small budget.
During the summer eating outside is pleasant. Exterior cafes along the entrance offer food-to-go such as drinks (Starbucks, Costa), hamburgers (GBK & Burger King), sandwiches (EAT., Food Station), paninis (Benugo) and sweet treats (Joe Delucci's Ice Cream, Millies Cookies). Alternatively you can by snack food in M&S or Waitrose. Prices range and are ideal for enjoying a quick snack while sitting along the small wall fountain (there is no proper seating here).
The M&S store also offer a food station infront of its store offering hot drinks, fresh juice, light snacks and a spacious seating area. The fresh juice is lovely, but seems rather pointless as M&S fresh juice is served cheaper inside the store.
Along the centre of each floor are other food-stations for quick bites. My favourites are Sblended and Snog. Sblended is a make-your-own-milkshake bar where you can choose from a huge list popular confectionary as well as bizarre doughnut fillings such as Marmite and banana. Sblended is not good for the waistline but coincidentally my other favourite food station is Snog which sell delicious and healthy frozen yoghurt in old-fashion ice-cream mini tubs.
All food stations are close to 'husband/boyfriend' areas, seating areas of giant leather chairs so you can grab a milkshake and relax.
Westfield is ideal for those with young children. The spacious layout, wide doors and stair-free access make it easy for those with buggies. The baby and feeding rooms are clean and spacious with toys, television and furniture to make you feel at home. Family toilets feature toddler and adult toilets side-by-side. For the kids there is a play area and toy cars for children over the age of 1 to use.
Family events are held regulary at Westfield including free face painting on Sundays, Mummy Mornings on Mondays and early-morning weekend cinema screenings from 95p a ticket. The free Kid's Club offers discounts and a goodie bag (more information is on the Westfield Website).
WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO DO?
Westfield regularly holds celebrity events; Mariah Carey turned on the Christmas lights and mini-concerts happen often. I advise that you check the website prior to visiting, especially if you wish to avoid these.
I made the mistake of visiting during a Justin Bieber signing at the HMV store. Not only was Westfield more crowded than usual with thousands of screaming schoolgirls and exhausted looking security guards, but HMV was completely inaccessible as there was no room.
A year after opening, Westfield opened a 14-screen VUE cinema which I've yet to visit but it sounds amazing; reclining seats and 'large-format digital screens the size of four double-decker buses' according to the Westfield website. Tickets can range in price depending on the time and day so it's best to plan online in advance.
A library costing £2 million has recently been built with over 10,000 books, a 1000 new DVDs, 600 CDs and 25 computers! with over 1000 new DVDs, 600 CDs and 25 computers. If covers two floors.
Other services include cloakrooms, shopmobility, family rooms, drycleaning services.
Despite it's odd location, Westfield has strong transport links.
For public transport, the Overground (train) from Clapham Junction or Willesden Junction which takes approximately 10mins from either, alighting at Shepherd's Bush. This is what I use most often, it's easy (there are only two platforms), cheap, and fast. Trains leave around every 20mins.
Underground/Tube (a separate station from the Overground) connects to the Central Line (red) and Hammersmith & City Line (pink).
A new bus station was built with frequent buses. More details can be found on the TFL website.
All stations are located around the entrance to Westfield. Oyster Card (including Pay-As-You-Go) can be used on all these options making it affordable and easy if you have a topped up Oyster Card. The Overground Station only has one ticket window but rarely has long queues, however the Underground can form enormous queues around rush hour so it's best to top-up before hand.
By car, Westfield is easy to access from the West Cross. The car park is housed below the shops with 4,500 parking spaces spread over 3 levels. A traffic light system indicates availability; red light for full, green for vacant, blue for disabled and orange for parents with buggies. All this comes at a cost though.
Car park rates start from £2 for 2 hours on weekends & £2 for 1 hour on weekdays. They go up by the hour, so if you plan on spending a day here it can work out ridiculously expensive (4+ hours on a weekend is £12!).
MY OVERALL THOUGHTS
Westfield have attempted to bring a new shopping experience to London, one that would rival Oxford Street. Yes, I've visited Oxford Street significantly less since Westfield opened, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's the better option. All that Westfield seems to be is a new, therefore slightly fancier, shopping centre that's on a giant scale. As a shopping centre it serves its purpose by making shopping easier, but it lacks character to make it stand out; the decor is foul and generic and the shops are mainly the leading names. Westfield achieves having its name in the papers through hype and by hosting events with the latest "it" celebrities, but Westfield can't compete with places such as Oxford Street or Harrods as unique shopping experiences. It simply meets an objective more efficiently; you need to buy a dress for a specific occasion so you visit Westfield for ease and convenience. The Village may be unique, but it's only useful for those who can regularly drop £500 on a handbag, and if I could, I would still much prefer to buy one on Regent's Street.
For these reasons Westfield is not a place I enjoy visiting; I simply visit because it's close.
Summary: Westfield is a big place for all your retail needs but big doesn't always mean better.