diamond geezer

 Sunday, October 02, 2011

Somewhere retail: Shepherd's Bush
Three very different places to shops, close to the grassy triangle of Shepherd's Bush Green...
Westfield: [photo] It's been here three years now, this Australian-funded shopping monster, covering a vast acreage on the site of a former railway depot. While East London's been fussing about its freshly-opened twin in Stratford, West London's continued to frequent its established bespoke mall. It wasn't over-crowded when I arrived, but then I arrived early. The cupcake concession was silent, the car exhibition on the ground floor barely buzzing, and the three ladies hoping to reel in punters for beauty treatment had few fish to hook. Much more pleasant than my recent trip to Stratford City, if nothing else because the aisles are broader and there's a far wider choice of routes to get around. Not everything's healthy - I saw my first 'Closing Down' signs here in a window for a men's clothing company. Wandering inside this air-conditioned bubble it was impossible to tell that temperatures outside were record-breakingly high - a fact obvious only along the external southern terrace where a long row of restaurants were setting out sun-facing tables ready for the lunchtime rush. And in the southwest corner, where few shoppers will accidentally stumble upon it, I found the Westfield-funded Shepherd's Bush Library. The building looks large until you realise most of it's actually Jamie's Italian Kitchen, leaving space for a relatively small number of bookshelves, but plenty of room for computers, laptops and a "film and music zone". The library of the future is optimised to "study, surf and relax", with a comprehensive selection of refreshment and shopping facilities located conveniently outside.
West12: [photo] How the hell has this place survived? It's hardly home to "some of the most exciting retail, leisure and entertainment in west London" as the council website lays claim. This used to be the only mall in Shepherd's Bush, a major draw for anyone with cash to spend, and then Westfield crash-landed across the road. All the high-end brands, such as they were, fled early, allowing to West12 to reposition itself further downmarket. You won't find Poundland, Primark and Wetherspoons in Westfield, nor a pool hall and a doctor's surgery, but that's still what many locals require. Three things keep a full range of punters coming in, one the anchor Morrisons in the far corner, another the multi-screen cinema out the back, the other the Fitness First on the upper level. The gym in particular attracts the kind of clientèle that otherwise would be entirely lost, and they might just stop for a phone upgrade or bottle of perfume on the way out. And yes, there really is a shop upstairs giving away free second-hand books, which feels most strange in a mall that once supported a Waterstones (or maybe it explains perfectly why they left). Quiet it may be, but West 12's unexpected survival suggests that Stratford's threatened shopping centre may still carve its own niche securely into the future.
Shepherd's Bush Market: [photo] Some markets are rubbish, selling cheap crap, unbranded cleaning products and suspect luxuries. This is not such a market, this is much more characterful. It curves in a narrow strip beneath a railway viaduct, with tube stations at either end, one of which has even been renamed. At the southern end is a greengrocer selling "mangoe" and "potts". In the middle is "West London's largest DIY Foam Centre". And up north Bobby sells "Ladies Underwear, Nightdresses, Negliges, Dressing Gowns, Boudoir Caps, etc", whatever etcetera might be. There's a distinct ethnic flavour throughout, be that Asian or Afro-Caribbean, but no one genre dominates. Most of the railway arches have been used to create additional retail space, some with shopfronts that could easily be out of the 1980s, and none the worse for that. Nip in here for shoes, or halal butchery, or whatever fabric you might want to turn into whatever style of dress you might need to wear. And don't forget the additional aisle beyond the viaduct, with stalls crammed in like some eastern bazaar, not that mobiles and knitwear are quite so exotic. This corner of Shepherd's Bush will never set London's tourist world alight, but it's a far more interesting market to browse than many better known.
by tube: Wood Lane, Shepherd's Bush, Shepherd's Bush Market, Goldhawk Road

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