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John Ryan

Every Store in Battersea Power Station Is as Good as It Gets

Fresh off a retail refurb, the art deco icon has reopened with much fanfare

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Photography: Charlie Round Turner

ONE OF THE BEST things about being in or close to London is the pace of change. There may be a cost-of-living crisis in the U.K. currently, but if the “crane index” (the number of tall cranes visible on construction sites in central London at any given time) is an indication, it’s boom time.

The latest project to see the light of day is Battersea Power Station. For those who don’t know it, this is a massive art deco building on the south bank of the Thames and, until the 1980s, was a place where coal arrived and energy exited. Now it’s a mixed-used development where millionaires have condos and retailers put their best feet forward.

It’s only been open for a week, but it is an immediate tourist attraction, complete with its own dedicated tube station. Get out here and you can gaze at a two-floor Zara at the foot of an asymmetric Frank Gehry apartment block, or you might care to wander into Turbine Hall A, home to a deco-styled Starbucks and a Nike with windows on which projections dance in front of your eyes, among other things.

We are at a moment when retailers are still fretting about whether they should radically prune their physical estates in the face of the Metaverse and all things digital, or perhaps they should make stores places that are an adjunct to the web. On the basis of what has been done in Battersea (it has lain empty for around 40 years and been the bane of many developers) you might be inclined to think that digital is a tool to make physical stores better, not to denude them of meaning. The other favor that e-commerce has done for the consumer is to make stores easier on the eye.

Every store in Battersea Power Station is as good as it gets, whether it’s the design or the VM, and in large measure this is entirely down to the perceived competition from the online crowd. Hats off to those who’ve opted to take space in this scheme and to make it a real contender for the “best there is” title in 2022.

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John Ryan is a journalist covering the retail sector, a role he has fulfilled for more than a decade. As well as being the European Editor of VMSD magazine, he writes for a broad range of publications in the U.K., the U.S. and Germany with a focus on in-store marketing, display and layout, as well as the business of store architecture and design. In a previous life, he was a buyer for C&A, based in London and then Düsseldorf, Germany. He lives and works in London.

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