- Danielle Wightman-Stone |
Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield has unveiled what it is calling “robust plans” that will allow it to reopen Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City when they are given the green light from the government, including “heightened hygiene” measures, socially distanced queuing and one-way systems.
The plans for Europe’s two largest shopping centres will see a phased reopening that it states will not only meet all requirements outlined in the government guidelines but go "above and beyond” utilising its guest services teams as well as technology to ensure measures can be safely adhered to.
Scott Parsons, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield’s regional managing director, UK and Italy, said in a statement: “As we contemplate the next phase, I welcome the announcement from Government that some shops will reopen from June 1. Managing the health and safety element of reopening Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City is our biggest priority right now and I can confidently say that our robust plans not only meet all requirements outlined in the government guidelines but go above and beyond.
“The sheer scale of our centres puts us in a unique position where we can very safely manage the customer journey throughout the malls. As well as heightened hygiene measures across every touch point, we have technology to monitor footfall and flows and ensure social distancing is practiced, as well as the benefit of onsite security and guest services teams to carefully control the measures at all times.”
The reopening, expected in June, would mean that 30,000 people can get back to work. However, the shopping centres did note that they have yet to receive confirmation from the government on which shops will be allowed to reopen.
Westfield puts “robust plans” including heightened hygiene measures, socially distanced queuing and one-way systems
Preparations have already started to ensure a safe and welcoming environment for retailers, shoppers and employees to return, and these include learnings from the group’s centres across Europe, some of which have already started to reopen.
These measures will include people control measures to monitor the number of visitors in and out of the centres, socially distanced queuing systems and floor spacing, cashless car parks and social distancing parking. This it states is possible due to technology, such as live footfall cameras and manpower managing the one-way in-centre traffic.
Other plans include the heightened hygiene and deep cleaning of all public spaces and hand sanitisers being available throughout the centres, as well as the use of indoor and outdoor screens to display key communication messages and floor stickers to mark out social distancing.
All the guidelines will be “carefully controlled” in both centres, added Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, and have been produced in-line with WHO guidelines as well as the recommendations and advice from the UK government.
Parsons added: “We understand that people will be very cautious about returning to any public locations, and rightfully so – this pandemic has had a deviating effect on our communities. We don’t underestimate the importance of getting these measures right, not only to ensure everyone coming into our centres is safe, but that they also feel confident that their wellbeing is genuinely being considered at every point.
“Our centres will be ready to open as soon as we get confirmation from the government that we are able to do so, and we look forward to welcoming our retailers, local communities and employees back.”
Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield calls on additional support for retailers from government
Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield also called on the government to provide “additional support” for retailers, adding that while it has “appreciated” the various packages to protect both employees and businesses, including the job retention scheme and business rates support for hospitality and retail, it would like to see more being done. This includes developing a retailer rent support scheme, as well as an extension of the business rates holiday to vacant units on both those that were vacant before the crisis set in, and those that will never reopen as a result.
Image: courtesy of Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield