The new Westfield Stratford City mall stands in front of the Olympic Stadium. An estimated 75 percent of Games fans will walk through the mall -- a corporate cousin of Toledo's Westfield Franklin Park.
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LONDON -- The gleaming Westfield Stratford City mall poses an interesting question about human behavior: Is it possible to head off to a major international sports event and forget to go?
Could a person be so distracted by 250 shops, 70 restaurants, 14 bowling lanes, and a 24-hour casino that they do not complete their journey to Olympic Park, just a few short steps away?
"I really hope so," said John Burton, the new mall's development director.
He is only half-joking.
The placement of the $2.75 billion mall -- between the area's public transit hub and the Olympic Park's main entry -- means an estimated 75 percent of fans will have to walk through it to reach venues for showcase events like gymnastics, swimming, basketball, and track.
Sheer retail genius or simply diabolical, depending on your point of view.
Either way, it's likely to be a marketing bonanza, with several million fans expected to pass by at least twice on the day they have Olympic tickets. It is on the way home, when visitors are no longer worried about clearing security to get to their seats on time, that Westfield is likely to rake in millions.
"As people leave, I'm pretty sure we'll see a very large percentage actually stopping and having a good look and hopefully spending, but, if nothing else, at least soaking up the atmosphere," Mr. Burton said.
The mall is gigantic by any standards. It has taken an Australian company to bring American-style shopping to London, first at its Shepherd's Bush mall, which opened four years ago, and now at its location next to the Olympic complex. [Westfield America, a subsidiary of the Sydney-based Westfield Group, owns Toledo's Westfield Franklin Park.]
Westfield and other smaller malls are having an impact on London. The city is laid out on an informal village scheme with residential areas -- some posh, others more down-to-earth -- anchored by "high streets," where shops, banks, restaurants, and groceries are found.
Residents can typically walk to the high streets within a few minutes, then hop on an Underground train to commute to work if needed. But high street stores have been losing customers lately, in part because of competition from malls with attractions like movie theaters and fancy shops.
"People are willing to travel farther now in order to get a massive cluster of shopping brands," said Keith Bowman, a stock analyst. "I see Westfield in a broader context of shopping outlets clustering together in order to attract consumers."
Westfield takes a "more is more" approach. Not just shoes, but lots of shoe stores in all price ranges. Not just perfumes, but dozens of perfumes, from Chanel to dreck. Its wide walkways are filled with "island stores" that block easy passage through the mall, encouraging people to stop and spend.
The coolest stores don't even look like stores: no branding on the front, more like a night club than a retail shop.
"It's brilliant," said local carpenter Barry Heath as he shopped with his wife, Sharon. "To find any of these shops, we used to have to go into central London -- Oxford Street, King's Road, Chelsea, all those places. It used to take me an hour. Now it takes me five minutes."
He said the mall and the whole Summer Olympics have helped transform east London, which had long suffered from neglect.
The Olympics run from July 27 to Aug. 12, but Westfield will be there for decades.
"All our friends love it," said Mr. Heath, 41. "It's good for everybody."