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Dutch mega-mall opens today, but shops inside remain closed

The Westfield Mall of the Netherlands. © URW

Today saw the official opening of the Westfield Mall of the Netherlands, one of the country’s largest-ever shopping centres. Just one catch: the shops inside are still under lockdown, unable to open.

Thanks to coronavirus regulations, Belgium’s northern neighbours are unable to go shopping other than for essential items like food, personal care items, pet food and cleaning supplies. Just this week the rules were relaxed to allow orders to be picked up, but shopping as we know it is still not allowed.

But that didn’t deter the consortium behind the development of the mall, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield. One planned opening was postpones last October, and retailers are now keen to make the most of what possibilities are open to them.

The mall, in Leidschendam on the outskirts of The Hague, covers 117,000 square metres, dwarfing the Wijnegem Shopping Centre in Antwerp with its 61,913 square metres, on construction the largest in the Benelux.

Unlike its nearest competitor, the Hoge Catherijne mall in Utrecht, the Westfield Mall is designed to be a destination shopping experience, along the lines of Maasmechelen Village in Limburg in Flanders. The Utrecht mall, closely linked to the main railway station, gets a lot of through traffic.

The Westfield mall will have 280 outlets, retail as well as horeca, with a food court and a cinema. Those businesses, too, remain closed under Dutch rules.

Thanks to the pandemic, meanwhile, the mall remains at only 92% occupation. A number of potential occupants pulled out because of the uncertainty of the virus situation, fearing – rightly, as it turned out, that opening might not be possible.

In the meantime, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield gave many tenants a rent reduction during the first lockdown. When the current lockdown is over, the consortium will examine each tenant’s losses and decide at that point whether to give another discount, and if so how much.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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