Westfield deny any deal is done for town centre John Lewis

Our retailing correspondent, M.T. WALLETTE, dampens down recent speculation arising from a speech from a director of the shopping mall developers

Westfield today denied reports on social media that one of its most senior executives had announced that a deal had been struck with the John Lewis Partnership for it to open an anchor store in the £1.4billion supermall planned for the town centre.

And the John Lewis Partnership dismissed the reports as “speculation”.

Westfield’s Steve Yewman at yesterday’s CPFC business club lunch

Steve Yewman, Westfield’s development director, yesterday addressed a networking lunch organised by Crystal Palace football club’s business club. Some of the attendees at the event related that he told them that John Lewis would close their Purley Way At Home store and instead open a department store in the long-planned Hammersfield supermall.

Yewman was also supposed to have given another, revised, opening date of 2022 – which would make it a full decade since the “regeneration” plans were first announced by the then London Mayor, Boris Johnson, and the sometime MP for the Whitgift Foundation, Gavin Barwell.

But progress on the biggest redevelopment in Croydon for half a century has been stalled since a Compulsory Purchase Order was agreed in 2015. A revised planning application from Westfield and partners Hammerson was supposed to have been submitted to Croydon Council nearly six months ago, with a view to demolition work of the existing Whitgift Centre beginning in early 2018.

The Croydon Partnership website is still suggesting that the supermall, which was supposed to have been built and operational by 2017, will finally be ready for business in 2021. That’s now looking increasingly unlikely.

There’s mounting concerns over the slow progress, especially among the governors of the Whitgift Foundation, which owns the freehold of the steadily declining Whitgift Centre, and who depend on the commercial income from the shopping mall site to help meet the costs of running their alms houses and private schools. It was the Foundation which invited Westfield to Croydon in 2012, when the Whitgift Centre leasees had already engaged Hammersons to oversee a redevelopment of the site.

There’s been slow, even no, progress on the redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre

Inside Croydon reported exclusively in July that the delays have been caused in major part because Westfield has been unable to secure any agreement from John Lewis to take space in the development – probably in the area which was once the Allder’s department store.

Since then, John Lewis’s new chief executive, Paula Nickolds, in an extensive interview in the Sunday Times, failed to mention Croydon among the three store openings planned by the company.

And the partnership has also just reported a 50 per cent fall in half-yearly profits, reflecting the accelerating decline for high street retailers.

Neither of these can be seen as particularly promising indicators for Westfield’s hopes of securing a John Lewis store for their shopping centre. To date, the biggest “attraction” that they have announced is … Marks and Sparks. Yeah.

Today, when asked about the John Lewis comments attributed to Yewman at the networking lunch, a member of his staff told Inside Croydon, “That is definitely not the case.”

Westfield’s project timetable for Croydon. Nothing’s happened in 2017…

Croydon’s dalliance with John Lewis has been going on for around 20 years (it just seems like longer). They were once mentioned as potential occupiers for a redevelopment on the site of where St George’s Walk now stands. It never happened.

Today, a spokeswoman for the John Lewis Partnership said of the latest reports, “We are often linked to speculation about where we’ll open a new shop, but we don’t comment on speculation.”

And a spokesman for the Croydon Partnership said that Steve Yewman’s speech had talked about the wider redevelopment and regeneration of Croydon. But when it came to John Lewis, Yewman said that they “had made a commitment to the town (not the scheme itself)”.

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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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3 Responses to Westfield deny any deal is done for town centre John Lewis

  1. Jonathan Law says:

    It’s great isn’t it . it’s like Park Place all over again. Force all the nice businesses to close and remove anything useful from Croydon for “the big master plan” which as it later turns out was nothing more than some speculative notes written in a few meetings with no firm contracts made or set in stone plans. So when it all falls apart the whole town is wrecked with nothing but charity shops, betting shops and pounds stores to show for it all. Having said that it seems that the financial pressures on the towns population mean that Primark and Poundshop shopping is all that can be afforded by many with the big stores like House of Fraser and Debenhams really struggling to do enough business to keep a good compliment of staff in their stores.I know that internet shopping also affects retail stores too, so the footfall downturn may have other causes too.

    I’d really like to be wrong, and am only too happy to have that pointed out.

  2. Lisa Verrell says:

    Retail is dead, or at least terminally ill now, so Croydon having based its regeneration and basis for income and community on retail is in real trouble now.

    The other employment such as office work has moved out of Croydon as it’s a hole to be based in and expensive on rent and rates. There is nothing for the average worker to replace office and retail work… so no employment.

    All the flats going up can’t be afforded by existing Croydonians so we are either encouraging foreign investors or out of town residents which is keeping prices artificially high and not helping to house locals.

    We are now a dormitory town and the Westfield will never be built meaning we are a dormitory town with an empty heart.

    We don’t want to be expanding and encouraging more residents we need to get the town functioning again with jobs and resident facilities such as shops and entertainments.

  3. declare2 says:

    Lisa is absolutely correct, reports from the United States indicate that shopping malls, as they call them over there, are finished and trends that occur in the US often spread over here within a year or two.

    Apparently, better off customers are increasingly shopping on-line and the less wealthy can’t afford to shop in the expensive shops that the centre owner needs to attract to bolster his rental income and repay his development costs.

    Two weeks ago I went to Marks and Spencer, couldn’t find what I wanted but found it on their website, ordered it and collected it from the store two days later, this, alongside home deliveries is surely the future.

    Unfortunately, instead of leaving business to largely take care of itself, some of our local political figures haven’t been able to resist meddling in business affairs and this could be one of the factors that has led to the recent downfall of certain individuals.

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