By Maximilian Clarke

Despite the credit crunch, consumers are flocking to the recently opened Westfield in Stratford. Two months on from its opening, creative agency Live & Breathe has conducted face-to-face interviews with visitors to the centre to find out what they thought about their experience.

An overwhelming 69 per cent of the shoppers Live & Breathe polled said that Westfield lived up to their expectations. Seventy four per cent were happy with the selection of shops and 88 percent thought it was easy to find their way around within the centre. All shoppers had found the centre easy to get to whether they were using public transport, walking or driving.

Yet the significant minority of shoppers — just under a third - who thought the selection of shops was poor expressed their views vehemently. They wanted more presence from department stores and were not happy with what they saw as too much expensive children’s wear and not enough adult designer wear.

When asked in detail about what they liked best about the centre, respondents said:
1. Food and restaurant choice (22%)
2. Shop variety (14%)
3. Somewhere different to visit (6%)
4. Somewhere convenient to visit (6%)
5. Spacious (4%)

However, the top five gripes about the centre included:

1. Shops were too small (14%)
2. Centre lacked character (12%)
3. Centre was too busy (10%)
4. Not enough designer shops (10%)
5. Centre was too big (6%)

A significant number of visitors — 37 per cent would consider Westfield Stratford for a night out and felt there was a good choice of entertainment including cinemas and restaurants.

Shoppers are in two minds as to whether they would do their Christmas shopping at Westfield Stratford; 47 per cent say they would, 49 per cent say they would not and the rest were undecided. Respondents expressed concern about how busy the centre would be as well as a lack of variety and designer goods. They expressed similar views about sales shopping. Forty three per cent said yes, while 57 per cent said they would avoid the centre because of perceived crowds.

“Our qualitative research shows that new and modern is not necessarily impressive if it does not live up to expectations," commented Nick Gray, managing director of Live & Breathe. "Of concern is that many found the shops too small; bringing hundreds of famous brands under one roof means nothing if the shops themselves are cramped, especially when Londoners are used to the big flagship store experience of central London. On the positive side, people were really impressed with the choice of restaurants and seemed to view the centre as much as a destination for a day out as a shopping venue.

“Yet Westfield Stratford elicits plenty of positive reviews too. A good number said it was a boon for the area in terms of jobs and something to be proud of in a less affluent area of London. Moreover the planners seem to have done a superb job of making travel to the centre as easy as possible and once shoppers are inside, ensuring that finding their way around is like child’s play. For that they deserve massive credit.”

If they hadn’t been at Westfield they said they would have gone to the West End (27%), Westfield Shepherd’s Bush (16%), Bluewater (18%), the High Street (27%), Lakeside (10%), Brent Cross (2%)

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