>Biggest of the big


Westfield Stratford City has opened to a barrage ofpress attention, helped by large crowds, Nicole Scherzinger and a slow news day.It has been billed as Europe’s largest urban shopping centre, which seems anunusual caveat. What is an ‘urban’ shopping centre and does this descriptorsuggest that Stratford City is not Europe’s biggest shopping centre? 

Stratford City has missed out on being the UK’slargest shopping centre, with both the Metro Centre in Gateshead and theTrafford Centre in Greater Manchester being bigger. Stratford City boasts175,000 m² of total retail space, compared to the Metro Centre’s 194,000 m² and theTraffordCentre’s 177,000 m². 

Perhaps urban should be taken as being more central,given that both the Metro and Trafford Centres enjoy peripheral, motorway basedlocations. Whilst Stratford isn’t in Zone One of London, it is certainly anurban location. So how does Stratford City compare with other urban centres inthe UK? Its nearest city-based rival is its west-London sibling, WestfieldLondon with 150,000 m² of retail space. Manchester’sArndale Centre has 130,000 m² and Birmingham’sBull Ring is next with 125,000 m². 

Does this make it the biggest in Europe? It seemsthat the UK leads Europe in the size of its shopping centres. Although this isnot necessarily something to be greatly proud of, it does validate StratfordCity’s claim to be Europe’s biggest urban shopping centre. 

European centres are tiddlers compared with theworld’s largest temples of Mammon. Asia, the Middle East and America specialisein these vast complexes that are many times bigger than anything seen in theUK. The chart below (click for large version) shows how Stratford City compares with the world’s largestmalls.

But size isn’t everything, as is dramaticallydemonstrated by the New South China Mall in Dongguan. Although the world’slargest by retail area (its 600,000 m² makes it almost 3.5 times as big asWestfield Stratford City) itis currently 99.2% empty. As a vast monument to hubris and belief inChina’s economic rise, it is unbeatable. But with just a handful of open shopsit is not a retail destination.