Yay! The long-awaited Westfield, Stratford City finally opened on Tuesday this week. Located adjacent to the Olympic Park, it boasts three floors of utter retail (and leisure) bliss covering 1.9million square feet and is the largest urban shopping center in the whole of Europe . The £1.4 billion development houses over 300 shops, 50 bars and restaurants (including quite a few of my favourites...Joy!) and a 17 screen, all digital, 3-D state-of-the-art Vue cinema. It has also created 10,000 new job. That's probably solved a lot of the unemployment crisis in London.
Anyway, I took a trip (a day after it opened because I value my toes and didn't want to get trampled on by the hoards of crowds on opening day) to see what all the fuss was about and toushé, point made. I totally get the hype and I'm not surprised why the call it "a city within a city". Quite frankly, it's enormous.
Everything is so pristine. As you enter, you're greeted by a massive M&S to your left. Walk a short distance further and there are scores of glass-fronted stores to your, left, right, above and below you and some fancy-looking stalls, restaurants and bars in the centre of the aisles. Nice modern, swanky sofas and chairs- which I predict won't stay as fresh for long- are placed around the centre for shoppers to rest their weary, all shopped-out feet. I was in sheer awe.
Transport links to get there are fantastic and if you drive in, theres no need to fret about parking- there are 5,000 car parking spaces available with very reasonable charges (first 2 hours are free!). There's no wonder it brings in consumers from all over London (I'm guessing mainly to window shop though because we all know money's to tight to mention).
Gone are the days when I'd have to travel into the West End of London to have a shopping frenzie. For me, his is so much more convenient than going to Oxford Street/Regent Street for so many reasons. The main ones being:
- You're indoors so the weather won't ruin your shopping experience;
- It's a lot closer to where I live so I can make a quick journey there and back home;
- It has public toilets. Unlike when I'm pressed while shopping in the West End and feel obliged to buy something at McDonalds just to use their loo, here, here, I don't have to worry about wetting myself;
- You can shop later here most days of the week because the majority of the stores close after 8pm.
To some extent, it kind of reminds me of American malls, where a lot of young girls and guys get dressed up and hang out there for a huge portion of their day to window shop, and not purely for clothes or shoes but for talent (#ifyouknowwhatimean).
In terms of supermarkets, I was quite surprised there isn't a Sainsbury or Tesco (especially as Tesco seem to be opening branches everywhere) in there. After all there's M&S Food and Waitrose.
Quite worryingly, the escalator stopped suddenly while I was on it, which is a major health and safety risk that management need to look into pronto. Funnily enough, 5 minutes before I went on the escalator I overheard a girl telling her friend about having the same experience but I thought that it was probably a one-off incident. Clearly not.
I feel sorry for the small Stratford Shopping Centre and the stores and stall holders there that will inevitably lose some customers. It was quieter than usual when I passed through it on my way back home. I'll still shop there but only at the places not offered in Stratford City like the market stalls or the butchers. I mean, why go to the small New Look store when there's a larger one in Westfield provide a wider range of options, right?
I was going to have some lunch at Westfield but when I saw the length of some of the queues, I quickly lost my appetite. Fear not, I certainly won't loose my appetite for shopping there. I'll definitely be having many-a-day of retail therapy euphoria.
Take a look at the website for more information: www.westfield.com/StratfordCity.