Monday, 14 November 2011

Stratford Westfield-review

Since its opening in mid September, Westfield Stratford City shopping centre has been widely talked about, and on visiting this shopaholic’s paradise, it’s easy to see why.
Some shops still unopened

The centre is home to almost every high street retailer you can imagine, from Primark to John Lewis, Armani to H&M, making it easy to do all your Christmas shopping in one foul swoop. However, it’s disappointing that two months since the centre opened, several main high street retailers such as Disney Store, Oasis, Vodafone and Hawkins Bazaar are still yet to open.

As well as the everyday and designer shops, there are some less well known brands, such as
 French Eye (men’s suits), Pulp (not entirely sure) and Puzzle Club (more calendars than puzzles by the looks of it). Perhaps the most surprising of all is the presence of a full size Waitrose supermarket at one end of the centre, giving more than a brief nod to the target clientele of the centre, and adding a very French twist to it.

Designer labels...
The initial problem on entering the centre, particularly for a first time visitor, is the lack of printed maps that you normally get in such places. Although this is no doubt beneficial for the environment, it does little to help those with a poor sense of direction, and there are not as many of those new fangled touch screen maps as you would expect either. Even coming over the bridge from Stratford station, you are faced with the choice of heading inside or browsing the outside shops first, with little signposting to aid your decision. The centre as a whole was less open plan than the Westfield centre in White City, adding to navigational problems.  Whilst this is fine for browsing, it is not at all helpful if you are looking for a particular shop. The Concierge staff are very helpful, although you get the impression that they have learned directions to every shop, cafe and restaurant off by heart and have been trained to regurgitate such information to you in a robot-like fashion.

The centre is organised much the same way as Westfield White City-all kids’ clothes and toy shops are located in the same vicinity, making for an easier shopping trip that all parents will be grateful for come Christmas Eve.

Champagne bar, anyone? I'll stick to McDonalds thanks.
As with all modern shopping centres, seating areas seem to be few and far between. There was quite a bunfight for a seat in one of the several food courts at lunchtime, a situation that is no doubt going to require nerves of steel for visiting any closer to Christmas. For a more peaceful lunchtime, head to the area near Waitrose, where there are more unique (and hence more expensive, but also less rammed) eateries, such as ElCantara, a Moorish deli and tapas bar. Outside of food courts, seating was also lacking, although a couple of strategically placed armchairs offer lovely views over the outside walkway and towards the Olympic park.
Christmas in John Lewis...no sign of the kid from the ad though!

Staff in all shops are very helpful and attentive, hardly surprising considering the centre has only been for less than two months; their nerves may frazzle entirely during the Christmas period.

The centre is attracting celebrities too-just last night Danni Minogue attended a book signing in the newly opened Foyles book shop, and Justin Bieber switched on the Christmas lights recently.

 Overall the centre is impressive, not least for the fact that they have squeezed so many shops in under one roof. And if you do run out of stores inside, there are further shops outside in the area named “The Street”, plus a cinema, bowling alley, casino and soon a Christmas ice rink too.

The centre is dwarfed by the adjacent casino


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