Managing Director Westfield UK and europe
In part two of our Olympics special, we talk to more entrepreneurs cashing in on London 2012.
Frank Lowy’s Westfield Group opened its Stratford City mega mall last year. The plan, says managing director Michael Gutman (pictured right), was to “have it up and running before the Olympics” and one assumes, take advantage of the influx of people visiting the area this summer. So far, so good.
The £1.45 billion Westfield Stratford was the biggest launch in the company’s 50-year history and is averaging around 900,000 customers a week. It expects to attract close to 300,000 a day during the Games. In fact, Mr Gutman, who is responsible for Westfield Europe and new markets, believes it could be the most successful mall this year. He says: “We believed that Stratford would be incredibly powerful because there is a lack of competition on the east side of town.
“We expect a huge amount of people to be coming through it during the summer, and hopefully a lot of them will take advantage of the restaurants, shops, casino and cinemas.”
In 2008, the Group opened Westfield London, which, located in Shepherd’s Bush, continues to perform strongly. Last year, it achieved retail sales of around £960 million, up 10.8 per cent. But Mr Gutman says Stratford City is now seeing more people through its doors than the Shepherd’s Bush mall and should generate £800 million worth of sales this year — more than those achieved in Westfield London’s maiden year. The two malls together are expected to achieve £2 billion worth of sales in 2012.
Westfield is an official partner of London 2012. The 1.9 million sq ft Stratford City development is directly adjacent to the Olympic Park. It is estimated that three-quarters of spectators will pass through it on their way into the Olympic Park over the next seven weeks.
Mr Gutman says: “There will be a great euphoria and for us, a great corporate pride to have ourselves on show for the 10 million that come to the Games and all those that watch on television.”
The shopping centre has approximately 300 stores, 5,000 parking spaces and 70 restaurants. It also has a 267-room Premier Inn hotel, and another hotel with 350 rooms.
Westfield Stratford — the largest urban shopping centre in Europe — is deemed as being a crucial part of the Olympic “legacy” development, built to provide longer-term housing and other facilities on former industrial wasteland in east London.
“If the Olympics weren’t happening, Stratford wouldn’t have happened. The Olympics was the catalyst to bring the regeneration of Stratford forward, probably by about ten years.”
ASAF NAHUM AND RAVI JAY
London business graduates Asaf Nahum and Ravi Jay are looking to capitalise on the increasing footfall in London during the Games. The duo have created myMzone, an online platform for market traders to sell their stock.
Officially launched earlier this year, more than 100 merchants have signed up from markets including Brick Lane, Portobello Road, Greenwich, Camden and Borough.
The venture was dreamed up last year as part of their final project at Middlesex University and the founders were recently nominated for the National University Entrepreneur competition .
Mr Nahum (pictured above right), 31, says: “We were trying to come up with ways to generate sales from the increased traffic of people over the period and thought about the popularity of the London markets.”
So, with an investment of around £60,000 worth of savings, they bought a multi-vendor website and set up myMzone, which, as Mr Nahum puts it, is “a sort of eBay for market traders.” The site is free to join, list and display products. “It will enable vendors to reach a wider audience and there is the potential for it to become a platform for global markets.” They have already had interest from markets in Glasgow, Berlin, New York and Jerusalem. “Merchants seem to be very enthusiastic about the website.” And it will also benefit shoppers, who might struggle to take their bulky purchases home.
“Tourists often comment on the uniqueness of London markets and we wanted to share that with the world, while helping to preserve local markets and businesses.
“The recession has made trading conditions tough and we saw a lot of small businesses struggling. MyMzone hopes to alleviate this by opening up these businesses to a larger audience.”
Revenues for this year are forecast at around £100,000 but Mr Nahum believes the real impact will happen after the Olympics.
MyMzone is Israel-born Mr Nahum’s third venture. He previously developed a girls’ toy, which was stocked at Hamleys, Fenwick and other department stores. He sold this business and started an online marketing company for beauty products, which he is still involved with. Business partner and chief technology officer Mr Jay has a background in IT and technology project management.