My trip to the St James Quarter & Other Stories - Kevin Buckle

I write my column on a Thursday night so after finishing work this week I popped over the road for the opening day of the St James Quarter.

Saturday, 26th June 2021, 7:00 am
Curious shoppers explore the newly opened St James Quarter
Curious shoppers explore the newly opened St James Quarter

There had been a Waverley Mall meeting on the Wednesday which had promised news on several fronts about plans for the mall but barring the odd revelation turned out more to be a meeting to say we would all be consulted before any announcements were made.

Now the plans for the roof are already known so there will be no great surprises there so the interest will be more in the timing and the vision for new units and the area it creates.

Importantly this impacts on the Waverley Bridge entrance which on one hand with the demise of Oasis and Gleneagles has meant there is a fantastic opportunity to define the shopping experience you might expect but on the other means that no long-term tenants can be secured until the works are complete. Avalanche has a vested interest, being only yards from the Waverley Bridge entrance and next to the post office.

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The pandemic has changed and delayed everything but there is at least the benefit that Moorgarth, the mall owners, can move forward with all the facts in front of them. One interesting thing to come from the current restrictions has been the success of the bars on the Waverley Mall roof without relying on hordes of drunken office workers singing along to a cover of George Ezra’s Shotgun.

This time the bars have been frequented by locals of all ages and a smattering of visitors and while I have every sympathy for those bars elsewhere still suffering unfortunately nobody is ever going to choose to sit in the shade in Rose Street when much better locations are available.

So back to my visit to the new St James Quarter and it certainly does what it says on the tin. There are lots of well-known brands and quite a few I personally haven’t heard of though that doesn’t mean much. I was surprised that a few of the big names had quite small shops and despite the centre being busy several had no customers.

The biggest queue I saw was for & Other Stories which it turns out is not a bookshop but a women’s clothing brand owned by Sweden’s H&M. With many of the food places not open yet those that were were mobbed.

The Hamleys shopfront looked quite small – I was hoping for a big toy shop given the entire centre is nearly all clothing, jewellery and food. It opens next month I believe.

Even once completely open there will be huge gaps in the St James Quarter’s offering which leaves many exciting opportunities for Waverley Mall. If nearby shops are to benefit it will be those that fill these gaps though it is also worrying that many nearby businesses are in competition and I don’t see that ending well.

There is lots of arts and community box ticking that you would expect from a big corporate shopping centre and I may be able to have a little influence with the mall there.

Hopefully things will be much clearer by next Easter.