Marylebone’s status as a haven for shoppers is the result of a clear strategy, first implemented by the Howard de Walden Estate around 20 years ago, which continues to reap dividends today. The Estate’s innovation was to select retailers for the qualities they would bring to the area rather than for the rent they were prepared to pay. Central to this was the courting of two highly regarded stores—Waitrose and The Conran Shop—to anchor the high street, supported by an attractive and diverse cast of small, independent retailers.
The Estate seeks out quality, diversity and difference—avoiding either a clone high street of major multiples or an exclusive enclave of expensive brands. It works hard to find retailers which offer exclusivity in terms of merchandise, but not in terms of price. The mix of retailers is carefully designed to satisfy the needs of residents, workers and visitors alike. Some have been there for generations, providing a real sense of history and tradition; others are highly fashionable and entirely contemporary.
Maintaining the quality of the retail offering requires the Estate to constantly update and, where possible, expand the area’s retail units—providing larger, more attractive and more efficiently designed spaces, but without losing all of the quirkiness of the original Victorian and Edwardian shops. The Estate owns many of the area’s retail units and, where possible, it has also sought to buy up additional properties or else positively influence the decisions of other landlords and leaseholders to prevent the unique character of the retail district from being undermined.