Comprising a nine-screen Cineworld and space for 70 retail units and 15 restaurants, 70 per cent of space was said to be leased or in solicitor’s hands on opening day, although only half the units were open for trade, with several retailers fitting out and empty units visible on every mall. The world’s first H&M outlet store, M&S, Superdry, Gap, Denby, Lindt, LK Bennett, Guess, Sketchers and Nike Factory Store were among those open for business, while Handmade Burger Company, Cabana, Nando’s, Pizza Express, T.G.I Friday’s and Wagamama made up the catering element.
Quintain and leasing agent CBRE hope the full array of shops – all offering up to 70 per cent discounts – will be open for business in spring 2014, with a phased marketing campaign drumming up interest from a widening catchment, culminating in a second, bigger launch event.
Located next to Wembley Stadium, Wembley Arena and a new four star Hilton hotel, the centre has the largest catchment density of any UK outlet with 10.4m people living within a 60-minute drive of the centre, and 782,000 people within a 20 minute drive. And it saw 200,000 shoppers over the threshold within 10 days of opening.
Eighty per cent of space is now exchanged with 20 retailers fitting out and expected to be open in time for Christmas and discussions underway with a dozen further retailers, but Mark Disney, executive director of shopping centre leasing at CBRE, admits that it was evident to visitors that it wasn’t completely finished, with units standing empty and the 3,000-space car park not expected to be open until December.
“There was a discussion as to whether to open in October or defer to Easter next year but we decided it should open as scheduled, with an additional launch, the main launch, in the spring,” he says.
“It hasn’t benefitted from the full brunt of the marketing budget or advertising spend yet, which will ramp up just before and after Christmas. That will help us to pursue new deals and have another bite of the cherry.”
He says the focus now is to develop ladies fashion, targeting middle to premium brands like Cos and Reiss.
He also says there is work to be done around improving the experience, helping people to find the outlet centre more easily from Wembley Park and using signage to better signpost the restaurants, most of which aren’t visible from the main entrance. “It was a big effort to get it open,” he says. “And there are an awful lot of very simple things left to do.”
But he is positive about the scheme’s success since opening and about its future: “It’s been phenomenally successful since opening and has beaten targets in terms of sales performance,” he says. “And it isn’t fully open yet so the best is still to come.”
He describes four bands of potential customers: the local catchment, the outlet catchment (though he admits they need to get the offer right first), the entertainment catchment drawn in by sports and music events in the stadium and arena, and tourists.
“The opportunity here is massive,” he says. “We weren’t sure how it would perform but we haven’t pushed it and it’s working already – the response from those trading has been very positive. It is predominately let with a good mix of homewear, sportswear and high street lifestyle; it’s a bit light on fashion but addressing that is our focus now. We didn’t plan for it to be quite like this, but it is exceeding expectations.”
James Saunders, COO of Quintain said he felt like an expectant father on opening day.
“We’re going to build momentum from here,” he says. “Our primary commitment is to our local catchment within 20 minutes’ drive time, then we’ll broaden the appeal to Londoners, and work on attracting the 4m visitors to Wembley’s 100 annual events, encouraging them to arrive early and stay late to shop and eat.
“People have a fixed idea of Wembley but they don’t know how it’s changed and what it’s like now so we need to work on changing people’s perception,” he adds. “It’s much better connected than people think – we want to get the message out that it’s something worth crossing London for.
“The retailers are happy, we’ve got six months of activities ahead, and it’s got all the attributes to succeed.”