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The Interview: Sam Cotton, Head of Leasing, Battersea Power Station

Tom Shearsmith
25 October 2022

Nearly 40 years after the London icon turned its lights off, Battersea Power Station reopened earlier this month, welcoming the public for the first time.

More than 250,000 people came to visit the London landmark over the opening weekend, enjoying free activities, performances and brand activations.

Following an eight-year restoration project in which the building was transformed from a derelict shell to the shining centrepiece of a new town centre for London, visitors are now able to enjoy the first of its shops, bars, restaurants and leisure venues. speaks to Sam Cotton, Head of Leasing at Battersea Power Station.

Battersea Power Station opening weekend

Battersea Power Station is officially open! The biggest milestone in the project has now been achieved, how does it feel?

Working on a project like Battersea Power Station is a once in a lifetime opportunity and to be a part of opening this iconic London landmark for members of the public to enjoy is a monumental moment for everyone involved. A special thank you must go to our Shareholders, whose continued support and determination has made it possible to restore the Grade II listed Power Station to its former glory and transform it into London’s most unique and exciting new retail and leisure destination.

What has the feedback been from the press and public?

The feedback has been extremely positive. More than a quarter of a million people visited the Grade II listed Power Station and Electric Boulevard, a new pedestrianised high street, during the opening weekend, which shows how much of a special place in people’s hearts Battersea Power Station has. Our new retailers reported stellar weekends, significantly exceeding their sales targets, which is brilliant too.

What’s your favourite aspect of the project, perhaps a certain hall or feature?

That’s an extremely tough question to answer as there are so many unique and beautiful parts of the building. However, for me it has to be the two Turbine Halls, which house the retail element. Although identical when viewed from the building’s exterior, they are completely unique in their interior design.

Turbine Hall A reflects the lavish Art Deco glamour of the 1930s when the Power Station was built, whereas Turbine Hall B which was completed in the 1950s, has more of a brutalist, industrial look and feel. It is these two contrasts and the fact that both turbine halls still feature so much of the original equipment and materials from when the Power Station was operational, that makes them the most unique retail spaces in the UK, if not the world.

How did the project handle the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, and what was the subsequent impact of it?

Like for most businesses, the pandemic was an extremely challenging time. When the first lockdown was introduced, we had approximately 3,000 operatives working on the Power Station and we had to close the site to introduce new measures to make sure it was COVID-19 safe. Thanks to a huge collective effort, we were able to restart works just six weeks later and we were able to make up the lost time.

Interestingly, a lot of locals ‘discovered’ Circus West Village, our first phase of the project, on their lockdown walks with many returning to our shops, bars and restaurants once the economy started to reopen last year.

What is the biggest draw for retailers to join the Battersea Power Station project?

Nowhere else in the world can people eat, drink, shop, play and work inside a former coal-fired Power Station and internationally renowned landmark. What we have created at Battersea Power Station is truly unique - it is steeped in history, culture, offers a great brand mix and there is a real sense of community, which is what sets this new riverside neighbourhood apart from any other retail and leisure opening London has seen.

Battersea Power Station NLE

How important has the Northern Line Extension been to persuading retailers to take up the opportunity available at Battersea Power Station?

The Northern Line Extension (NLE) has been key to attracting brands to Battersea Power Station. There has always been a gap in the market for a retail offering south of the river but the lack of connectivity to this area has meant that this wasn’t possible before now.

Battersea Power Station contributed over £300 million to the NLE, which has improved accessibility for the local community, residents, workers, domestic and international tourists to this new riverside neighbourhood we have created. It is less than 15 minutes from the West End and the City, putting it on the map for both brands and consumers as a must-visit destination in the capital.

There’s certainly been some careful curation regarding the locations of retailers, who decided where each store would be located and how?

The consumer experience has never been more important when it comes to creating a new retail and leisure destination and we’re extremely excited to be working with some of the leading British and international brands, as well as independent and up and coming brands, that are bringing something new and dynamic to London.

Our aim has always been to create a retail and leisure destination with something for everyone and some of the fashion brands announced so far such as Ace + Tate, Theory, Sweaty Betty, Mango, Uniqlo and Zara demonstrate that we have successfully achieved this. We worked closely with the different brands to find the perfect location for their new stores within the Power Station and on Electric Boulevard, depending on individual needs and preference.

The turbine halls have a very different aesthetic and it was interesting to see which brands gravitated towards the more Art Deco Turbine Hall A and those which preferred the more industrial and brutalist Turbine Hall B.

Do you think the cost of living crisis will impact any of the decisions shoppers at Battersea Power Station?

From the very beginning, we have been really focused on ensuring that this new riverside neighbourhood can be enjoyed for many generations to come and has something for everyone with a real mix of premium and high street brands. You also don’t need to spend any money to enjoy the restored Power Station, which is free to enter and also features a free exhibition on the building’s history, or the spacious public realm that surrounds it, including a six acre riverside park and Prospect Park children’s playground.

The opening of the Power Station and Electric Boulevard has also created 2,500 jobs, with the wider masterplan set to create 20,000 new jobs by the time it is complete, injecting millions into the UK economy.

In the next few months, what can we expect from the project? There’s still so much to come!

We have so many exciting announcements still to come including many more store openings between now and Christmas, the launch of Lift 109, our unique chimney lift experience. A 24,000 sq ft Arcade Food Hall will also be opening in 2023, bringing with it a mixture of new and existing food concepts along with three standalone restaurants and cocktail bar, located in the Boiler House at the heart of the Power Station.

Battersea Power Station will also be home to London’s brand new and only riverside ice rink, Glide at Battersea Power Station from 11 November 2022 – 8 January 2023.

Read's latest feature - Battersea Power Station: a repurposed London legend

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