The long-awaited 580,000sq ft counterpart to the recently overhauled Camden Market, Hawley Wharf has brought new “experiences” to local shoppers since opening over the August Bank Holiday weekend.
The new complex soft launched a Curzon cinema and a host of indie retail and leisure brands, according to owner and investor LabTech.
Hawley Wharf’s occupancy is set to increase to include 150 stores and 60 food outlets. The complex also contains 195 apartments.
LabTech revamped the iconic Camden Market in London and launched food space Buck Street Market last year, just weeks before the lockdown was implemented.
Hawley Wharf, which is a mixed-use retail destination located by the canal, features retailers alongside dining and leisure brands with a focus on attracting experience-hungry consumers and tourists post-pandemic.
LabTech commercial director Maggie Milosavljevic told Retail Gazette that sales and footfall within Hawley Wharf are increasing on a weekly basis.
The investment firm is targeting footfall of 30 million visitors a year, which will be boosted by the millions of visitors that come to neighbouring Camden Market already.
Milosavljevic said she wants to capture and maximise the footfall that comes within the three markets – Camden Market, Buck Street, and Hawley Wharf.
“We want to put Camden Market back on the map to be visited from a touristic footfall, as well as local,” she said.
Prior to the pandemic, Camden Market was receiving 350,000 visitors per week, which was 90 per cent tourist-driven.
According to Milosavljevic, Camden Market is not the same without tourism, and Hawley Wharf’s opening aims to showcase content to put the district back on the map.
“We have increased our local footfall by 80 per cent. Footfall will continue to grow,” Milosavljevic said.
“Hawley Wharf is an upmarket destination that offers a more elevated experience – compared to our other markets.
“You’ll see independent businesses that have grown to high street level, and you will see operators that have a Michelin star background.”
Alongside independents, Hawley Wharf is set to open 30,000sq ft of entertainment space for kids this week in an effort to attract more local customers.
“Our local customers want a place for their families,” Milosavljevic said.
“We have to understand what our local customers want. We’ve done many surveys where we found that our customers love the market stalls, the vibrancy, and the organisation in retail.”
Hawley Wharf is currently facing challenges such as supply issues, which Milosavljevic said is affecting everyone across London.
“Everyone at the moment is suffering. We allow our traders in our businesses to be flexible with opening hours while the pandemic fades out,” she said.
“Hawley Wharf is an upmarket destination that offers a more elevated experience”
“We also understand the money implications that they may have, so if businesses want to close for one or two days, we will allow them to do that.
“However, the biggest challenge we’re facing at the moment is awareness of the small independent businesses.
“Camden is so tourist-orientated that local consumers have forgotten about the smaller independent businesses.
“We’re working very closely with our PR agency to actually raise that awareness. As a landlord, we have recognised the potential.
“When the pandemic started, we suspended everyone’s rent.
“When we reopened the market last year, our independent businesses were only asked to pay 30 per cent of their base income.
“We have 96 per cent occupancy at the moment and that’s because we are working with those independent businesses.”
Milosavljevic added that although retail is “dying” on the high street, Camden Market continues to be a “vehicle” that gives birth to many start-up businesses.
She believes that bricks-and-mortar retailers are “unique” in what they produce, and some products may not be found as easily online.
“You can start your business from a stall, and then move to a concession, from which you can then go to a larger unit, either within Camden Market, Hawley Wharf, or even the high street,” she explained.
“People ask ‘why did you open Hawley Wharf?’ it’s very simple. We have around 1000 retail brands under our umbrella that are looking for that growth.
“All they need is that help to bring them in and grow their business.”