Loud crowds but quiet tills at £1.7bn mall

Daily Express - - NEWS - By Laura Clout

THOU­SANDS of peo­ple flocked to the open­ing of a £1.7bil­lion shop­ping mall yes­ter­day – but few wanted to part with their money.

With Bri­tain slid­ing into re­ces­sion, it wasn’t the best time for the 43-acre West­field to open in Shep­herd’s Bush, Lon­don.

But mayor Boris John­son told crowds: “There are peo­ple with piles of money out there.”

The gleam­ing cen­tral atrium of Europe’s big­gest city cen­tre mall was packed as X Fac­tor star Leona Lewis per­formed at the open­ing cer­e­mony.

One, PR ex­ec­u­tive Ramia Malouf, said: “I’ve come to see what all the fuss is about but I won’t be spending much, as my bills are much higher th­ese days.”

And Charly Har­ri­son, 23, said: “I think the cen­tre puts peo­ple in a bet­ter mood and cheers them up. You don’t ac­tu­ally have to come to spend, you can come to ad­mire and have a drink with friends.”

Si­mon Hol­ber­ton, a di­rec­tor of Aus­tralian de­vel­op­ers The West­field Group, which hopes to at­tract 60,000 shop­pers a day, said: “We feel very op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture.

“We have lived through many eco­nomic cy­cles in our 50 years and this is an­other one.”

The mall houses 280 stores un­der its dis­tinc­tive wavy roof, from High Street giants in­clud­ing Marks and Spencer and House of Fraser, to lux­ury brands in­clud­ing Louis Vuit­ton, Chanel and Prada.

Pic­ture: LEFTERIS PITARAKIS

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