Shepherd’s Bush Becomes Westfield In London
“Visitors to London should know that 2008 saw the creation of another new destination,” writes Correspondent Paul Lewis.
“Last year, I reported how the re-siting of the terminus for the fast Eurostar rail service to Brussels and Paris has transformed Saint Pancras Station from a crumbling pile of Victorian masonry into a spanking new luxury tourist attraction with smart boutiques, champagne bars, and a marvelous statue of that intrepid defender of the decrepit building, the poet John Betjeman, who saved Saint Pancras from the wrecker’s ball.
“Last autumn, a similarly down-at-the-heels area of the British capital known as Shepherd’s Bush in west London was reborn as Westfield-London, the largest, newest, and most splendidly gaudy shopping center in Europe, complete with a rebuilt Underground station to match its shiny image.
“It is a vast mall on two stories. Just as the Holy Pancras now draws in more curious spectators than folks planning a high-speed train trip to the Continent, so, too, Westfield is crammed day and night with bedazzled window-shoppers, wandering along its lofty arcades of gleaming new luxury shoppes, even if few of them are weighed down by shopping bags full of purchases.
“While the ladies are shopping, there are comfortable leather swivel seats with high backs for the accompanying males to sit in. For children, there are enough fast snack and sweet options for even the best behaved to start nagging their parents, plus specialized shops for buying them toys, shoes, and clothing.
“Christmas was a bust, and the January sales feature heavy discounting, albeit from prices that were ridiculously high in the first place. And several couture houses, Louis Vuitton, and De Beers appear never to have opened their boutiques in the first place.
“This is not surprising, for Westfield has been launched, thanks to superlative bad luck, just as Britain’s economy is tumbling into an even deeper black hole than those engulfing the U.S. and Continental Europe. Still, this new shopper’s paradise seems defiantly optimistic, being promoted as a Temple to Mammon, determined to preserve that now old-time religion of shop ’til you drop and spend-spend-spend.
“Every brand name in the world seems to be represented here, including a few teetering on the brink of insolvency, such as Adams, the kidswear retailer, Debenham’s, a British department store that was just refinanced by its banks, and Whittard of Chelsea, purveyor of unsellable, up-market teas and coffees and the pots to make them in.
“Besides trendy emporia, there are off-beat stores, like All Saints, with a window full of old foot-powered sewing machines and its clothing laid out on disused carpenters’ benches.
“A designers’ women’s boutique has graffiti by its entrance declaring “La Vida es Chula,” meaning “Life is Cute,” which it won’t be if shoppers don’t start spending.
“Australia, home of the Westfield commercial property group that this mall is named after, provides a boutique selling Down Under sheets and another selling Ugg sheepskin boots. Westfield also features up-market supermarkets like Waitrose, which delivers your purchases to nearby residences within the hour.
“This may be a better option than the disappointing restaurants in the mall, which include Kitchen Italia and The Real Greek, where the mezzes come on multi-story cake stands, delivered by French waiters. McDonalds and other fast-food joints have been vigorously excluded from this spender’s paradise.
“My wife found a splendid pair of FCUK (sic) bronze-colored leather shoes for GBP19, reduced from GBP75, which is a bargain. They were the last pair and in her size.”