By Ben Sillitoe
Guaranteeing a lasting legacy is always one of the main criteria essential for any successful Olympic Games bid and the London 2012 team was no different when it promised regeneration for the east of the city.
Whether the next Olympics leaves a successful sporting legacy is currently subject to some debate, but the Games’ retail legacy seems much more certain.
Westfield Stratford City will open in September this year in what will be a landmark demonstration of what the Olympics can offer the sector, and London 2012 Chairman Lord Sebastian Coe is a keen advocate of the scheme.
The double 1500m Olympic champion told Retail Gazette: “The Olympics and Paralympics will play a large part in Westfield Stratford’s early success.
“Westfield’s development is a huge part of the regeneration legacy being created in east London.
“By mid-2011 there will be 5,000 direct or indirect jobs created and we are working on the basis that around 70 per cent of the people visiting the park - either on tours or as spectators - will pass through Westfield.
The opening of the new Westfield retail development is some months away, but another major step towards boosting retail industry revenue occurred this week when the latest selection of Games merchandise went on sale.
It is this merchandise that is expected to offer an £80-90 million financial injection to the retail industry, providing funds typically only seen at seasonal times of the year.
Coe explained: “If you look at the potential for retail trade solely in 2012 I think you can safely say that the industry is set for two Christmases that year.
“You’ve clearly got the interest around the Games and because they will have such a huge impact you have plenty of selling opportunities throughout autumn and winter as well.”
It would appear that the Olympics and Paralympics can be beneficial to retail in various ways - not only can they make money against this sporting backdrop, but they can involve themselves in new endeavours.
Jonathan Edwards, world record holder for the triple jump and a member of LOCOG, said he hoped that retailers and other businesses will use the Games as inspiration to get involved in sport, whether that is through sponsorship of athletes or by stocking new products.
He added: “Close to £1 billon could go to retail from merchandise sales.
“Around one-third of sales will come from official vendors, including our own Olympic-specific stores, websites and our other business sponsors, but two-thirds of the sales will come from the general high street.
“My message to retailers would be to get hold of this stuff because I do believe there will be a huge demand for it.”
Retailers linked with the Games already include John Lewis and Sainsbury’s, which act as the official department store and supermarket for the Olympics and Paralympics respectively, but it appears the rest of the high street has the opportunity to cash in too.
Products that have gone on sale this week include toy mascots, cushions, Team GB sporting equipment, key-rings and books - something for everyone, according to Edwards.
Items must be of a high standard if they are to help generate the revenue LOCOG expects, and the former triple-jump champion has been suitably impressed with what he has seen.
“You can never get away from the importance of product quality,” he explained.
“Consumers expect quality and something on par with what the top professionals are using. This is important.”
Although these products and souvenirs will help leave a lasting memory of the Games, it is Westfield Stratford City that represents the event’s truly long-lasting retail icon.
Lord Coe is “absolutely confident” that the shopping centre will be able to maintain high levels of footfall once the excitement of the Olympics has passed and the torch is passed on to Rio de Janeiro for the Games in 2016.
“You can’t look at the centre in isolation of what else is going on in the region. It’s got thousands of new homes, world class sporting venues in a completely regenerated and landscaped area.
“Westfield is part of a new city being built within an old city - it made very good commercial sense for the retail hub to be the vanguard of the regeneration.”
Coe, a man who has made the Games possible for London and been chief cheerleader for the event over the last five years, is confident that the Olympic and Paralympic legacy will stretch across so many boundaries.
He said: “We have as broad a merchandiser and licensee agreement there has ever been for a competition like this, extending across a wide range of product lines.
“The retail legacy will be sizeable - the revenue we are talking about generating is certainly not chopped liver.”