John Lewis keeps Croydon waiting over Westfield store

Westfield have yet to secure a deal with John Lewis to take a flagship department store in the £1 billion supermall that they want to build in the town centre.

John Lewis is not the panacea many have suggested for the future of Croydon town centre

Anyone spotted a branch of John Lewis in central Croydon?

Getting John Lewis into the centre of Croydon has been the equivalent of the Holy Grail for the town’s burghers and bureaucrats for decades, and delivering on this was a core offer of the Hammersfield development schtick when it was since first announced by London Mayor Boris Johnson, accompanied by a grinning local MP Gavin Barwell, four years ago.

John Lewis were thought to be the ideal business to move in on the key site where Allders was once synonymous with Croydon. But this week, a senior council source confided with Inside Croydon that Westfield’s movers and shakers had, as yet, failed to convince John Lewis to agree to take a lease on the property.

With retailing becoming ever more an online business, slower economic growth and the fear of another global downturn, plus further delays to the Hammersfield development to the extent that an opening date in 2019 is looking increasingly optimistic, it is perhaps little wonder that John Lewis have gone all non-committal on signing up for the Croydon development.

Westfield director John Burton: "We are not a panacea"

Westfield director John Burton: still without an agreement from John Lewis

Things have gone decidedly quiet all-round with the scheme, being developed between Westfield and Hammerson to regenerate the ageing Whitgift Centre and the unloved Centrale on the other side of North End. It was September when council leader Tony Newman was hanging bunting from the Town Hall and proclaiming “a historic day” after Whitehall approved the council’s Compulsory Purchase Order for land around the Whitgift Centre.

That was more than four months ago. Since when… not a lot. There’s a suggestion of some legal difficulties at the council over aspects of the CPO, while traders still in the Whitgift Centre have been given lease extensions through the 2016 Christmas sales period – suggesting that no work will begin before 2017.

It has created a dilemma for those traders left hanging on in there: each month, businesses leave the Whitgift Centre, adding to the atmosphere of decline and decay.

“It’s like an old family pet now,” our Katharine Street source said. “Everyone knows it would be a kindness to have it put down, but no one wants to take that decision.”


About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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11 Responses to John Lewis keeps Croydon waiting over Westfield store

  1. It is reported that John Lewis Christmas online sales rose by 21%, offsetting falling store sales. If I were them I’d be thinking very carefully about committing to new stores and the same applies to their Waitrose supermarkets and food stores (Lion Green Road, Coulsdon, anyone?).

    I am not aware of a Plan B for the Whitgift but it badly needs redevelopment. Hopefully the business plan is robust enough to survive without John Lewis.

    Demolition would take about a year, so if they do not start construction until 2017 there is no chance of a completed Mall being opened in 2019.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Why is anyone surprised?
    This is the second time that ambitious developers have played the same “John Lewis (aka The Retail Messiah) is Coming” card and have managed to trump our credulous and naive Councillors. What short memories they do have. Remember Minerva, St Georges Walk, bridges over Katharine Street? That too was based on the forthcoming appearance of The Messiah and turned out to somewhat economical with the truth. Its a sort of corporate insanity, really. Insanity, according to Einstein, consists of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Are you saying of John Lewis: “He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy”?

      Or are we mixing up our Monty Python films?

      Liked by 1 person

      • No, no, you’ve got it wrong. John Lewis is the other brother, the cautious, evaluative, careful one. He’s the one who survived and if he decides not to commit to something then you have to think very carefully why he should decide so.

        Commercial, retail life is changing very quickly and fewer firms than ever are investing in big new mega-projects. By the time Westfield comes on stream, and that is likely to be close to 2020 as anything, the whole field will have changed. IKEA has very successful shops in the Canaries: you order on the net and pick the stuff up at the shop which also deals with complaints, returns and so on. Much the same model works already with John Lewis on Purley Way.

        Why on earth should they, or any of the big retailers who are already on Purley Way, change their style? They won’t and the fantasy of Westfield will turn into a nightmare, unless the Council and all concerned get out, encourage small traders, artisans, craft-based enterprises and the like.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It seems Inside Croydon would love nothing more than to see the Westfield project fail. I very seriously doubt that this Croydon Council “source” would be anywhere near the very sensitive commercial decisions of either of these huge companies.
    With the completion not due until 2019/20 then it would make no sense whatsoever for John Lewis to make an early decision to take over the Alders area. Indeed I would fully expect them to play hard ball with Westfield in order to gain the best possible terms .
    Instead of crowing and doom mongering, wouldn’t it be nice for a Croydon based website to show some positivity. Or at least to not make idle speculation.

    Like

    • And in the morning, you’ll wake up and find that the Nestle Tower being a bustling office with the borough’s biggest employer, that Allders (note the correct spelling) is a thriving department store, and that the Fairfield Halls has acts of the calibre of The Beatles performing each week is all just a figment of your imagination. A lurid, and damp, wet dream.

      Sorry if you don’t like reality much. You must hate having to look in a mirror in the morning.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I would love to be positive and not gloomy, but it would be dishonest!

    Westfield is a disaster on the horizon and every trend, every piece of evidence from history, every logical examination supports this view.

    As a town Croydon is already crumbling. Putting all your eggs in one commercial basket and hoping that that alone will regenerate the moribund is just wishful thinking,

    Liked by 1 person

    • What planet are you on?!

      What evidence shows Westfield will be a disaster? Try going to Stratford and Shepard’s Bush, you will see then what a fantastic addition they have been. Croydon being south of the river is perfect for Westfield to have London covered.

      To say Croydon is crumbing is somewhat disingenuous. Yes the Whitgift Centre is a mess (and is being dealt with by Westfield), and we still have Georges Walk to sort out. But with the Fairfield Halls about to be refurbished, the masses of work going on next to East Croydon, plus the thousands of other homes planned, Id say Croydon is a positive work in progress. Once Westfield starts then we shall see an even greater push from developers and companies wanting to invest in Croydon. Come 2020, we shall see a massively improved, exciting new beginning for Croydon, of that I am certain.

      Like

      • It’s all jam tomorrow, the sort of paternalistic twaddle offered to placate the little people.

        Even in your own account of this brave new Croydon, you cannot avoid mentioning some of the development disasters which have been inflicted upon this town by developers and the council.

        St George’s Walk? That’s been festering for a decade, and still there’s no resolution. There is a rising level of risk that the same might happen at the Whitgift Centre.

        After all, we were told once that the new Hammersfield would be opening 2017-2018. And you believed that, too.

        You can be as gullible as you like. We’ll keep reporting the facts.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Jonathan Law says:

    So is Westfield to become the new Park Place?
    Lots of shops shutting down to make way for a plan that will never come to fruition.
    I do hope not, even though the stores in a Westfield will be the same standard set of stores that you see in any major shopping development.

    I would like to see it succeed, but I would like there to also be a focus to nurture an environment for smaller independent businesses that offer something unique and special that will make there be a reason to visit Croydon rather than any other town that has a similar shopping Mall with all the same identikit stores and layout.

    Yes I know …it’ll never happen and I should just prepare for life in a Judge Dredd style Mega City One that Croydon is going to become, but I’d like there to be some kind of hope for the town.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. We could go on like this, in traditional Pantomime fashion, forever.
    “I’m right”
    “No, you’re wrong”
    “You’e just a miserable pessimist”
    “No, I’m a cheerful realist”
    and so on.

    The truth is that only time will tell whether dark, looming Westfield and all its associated development will be a disaster or a boon for our beloved borough.

    My bet stays firmly on the former. By the time Westfield is finished and available for hire it will be 2020. By then the whole retail field will have changed and the mighty megamall will have had its day. If it does open, it will fail. People will not want to walk down from East Croydon Station, the main terminal, nor will they want to risk the horrendous traffic, which will be exacerbate and not eased by any of the proposed highway schemes, and pay to park. St George’s Arcade and its surrounds will continue to fester and deteriorate. Who on earth would put good money into that with bright, shining Westfield nearby? In the meantime Boxpark will lure diners away from the flourishing restuarant strip and many will close, never to reopen. The 1000 restaurants and cafes in Westfield will see to that as will the 100 cinemas see the final end of the Grants complex. We will be left with one briefly shining artificial jewel in a desert of dereliction.

    History is also against the project. Nothing in the Borough has ever succeeded. Look at Centrale: hardly a hub of bustling, affluent shoppers. The footfall in the present developments is only just sufficient to keep them going. The only time the town is crowded is at Christmas and during the sales. The Shepherd’s Bush and Stratford sites are only just keeping up and do not report increases in sales or footfall. In both, if you visit them, you will see that the majority of sales seem to be taking place in the eateries and cinemas.

    The only way any development will succeed will be to try and so what Jonathan Law suggests and make Croydon different, vibrant and unique and get away from the rapidly tiring and close to extinct culture of indistinguishable national and international outlets.
    That way, some of the commerce could be shared with St Georges and the Southern end of the High Street.

    But, I must end on a note of partiality. I will change my mind if Apple open a store there…but its the only shop I would visit…..but I’ll be getting on for 90 by the time that happens!

    Liked by 2 people

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