Mall to shut to non-ticket holders at weekend

LONDON Thu Aug 2, 2012 9:40am EDT

Shoppers crowd the walkways on opening day of the Westfield Stratford City shopping centre in east London September 13, 2011. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

Shoppers crowd the walkways on opening day of the Westfield Stratford City shopping centre in east London September 13, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett

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LONDON (Reuters) - Westfield Stratford City shopping mall, the gateway to London's Olympic Park, will be shut at the weekend to people without tickets for the Games to try to manage the crowds, surprising the centre's anchor tenant John Lewis.

The centre's stores will still be open to ticket holders but regular shoppers will be turned away between 0930-1600 GMT on August 3-4, the Australian developer said on Thursday.

John Lewis told Reuters it was surprised by the decision, which was taken by the Games organizers and Westfield.

"We hope the situation continues to be reviewed and encourage any disappointed customers to visit John Lewis Oxford Street," the company's Director of Selling Operations, Nat Wakely, told Reuters.

Friday and Saturday are expected to be the Olympic Park's busiest days when the Olympic Stadium opens up for athletic events. Transport for London said that more than 200,000 spectators and accredited workers were expected each day, making the Stratford area exceptionally busy.

"We've always been working with the Games organizers on crowd management plan for the Olympic Park so it's always been one option," a Westfield spokeswoman said. "We still expect it to be busier than our non-Olympic trading days."

The center, Europe's biggest urban shopping mall, will be reopened to all visitors outside these hours, Westfield said. It will also be open as normal on Sunday.

Westfield does not disclose footfall numbers but the 1.9 million square foot shopping center, which opened in September last year, is expected to be one of the big winners from the Olympics due to its proximity to the main venues.

In comparison, retailers in central London's shopping districts have been so far disappointed with the Olympic effect, after repeated warnings over the strain London's transport system would be under deterred Londoners and the usual non-Olympic seasonal tourists from visiting.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh, additional reporting by James Davey; Editing by Alison Williams/Patrick Johnston)

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