Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield has announced robust plans to re-open its flagship London centres safely when the Government advises it is safe to do so. Across Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City, Europe’s two largest shopping centres, the Group looks forward to supporting the phased return of up to 30,000 people back into work.
Although it has not yet been confirmed which shops can reopen in June, Westfield centres have robust plans in place that fully integrate all health and safety measures outlined in the Safer Public Places document published by Government and will ensure a safe and welcoming environment for retailers, shoppers and employees to return to.
Scott Parsons, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield’s regional managing director, UK & Italy, said: “As we contemplate the next phase, I welcome the announcement from Government that some shops will reopen from 1 June. 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.
“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.”
Taking learnings from many of the Group’s centres across Europe, some of which have already started to reopen, preparations in the UK centres 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 is bolstered by technology and manpower to ensure all guidelines are adhered to, with the measures carefully controlled in both centres. Specifically, these measures include:
- Heightened hygiene and deep cleaning of all public spaces and readily available hand sanitisers throughout the centres;
- The ability to manage the number of people entering the centres in a controlled and safely distanced manner using technology such as live footfall cameras, whilst managing the in-centre traffic including one-way systems where required;
- A highly experienced and fully trained Security and Guest Services teams in place to manage queuing systems, as well as direct communications with every single retailer to collaboratively manage flows and numbers;
- Use of indoor and outdoor screens to display key communication messages and floor stickers to demark social distancing spaces;
- Cashless car parks with social distancing parking as well as large numbers of bike racks and Barclay bike stations.
Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield also said that whilst it recognises and appreciates the various packages the Government has put in place to protect both employees and businesses, including the job retention scheme and business rates support for hospitality and retail, it would welcome additional support on a retailer rent support scheme as well as extending the business rates holiday to vacant units – both those that were vacant before the crisis set in, and those that will never reopen as a result. The Group said it is committed to working with industry bodies such as Revo and BPF and Government directly, to give the retail industry the best chance to recover.
Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City have been substantially shut during lockdown, although pharmacies and supermarkets have remained open, to ensure the community can still access essential food and supplies. The centres have extended this community support to those services and organisations that need it at this time. During lockdown, centre teams have been engaging with local authorities and organisations to support them through their community programmes. A large number of employees have registered for the official NHS volunteering programme and many are participating in virtual charity fundraising activities to support a number of good causes.
Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield’s Senior Management Team and URW’s Supervisory Board have taken the initiative to reduce their remuneration by -25% for the period during which the partial activity measures have been in place for the Group. Many senior executives of the Group’s US and European management committees have also decided to reduce their fixed income during this period. The unpaid remuneration will be donated to support efforts to fight the COVID-19 crisis in all countries in which URW operates.
Globally, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield is following WHO guidelines and each country is following the recommendations and advice being issued by its own public health authority.