Bluewater celebrates 10th birthday

Bluewater opened on March 16, 1999. Library image.
Bluewater opened on March 16, 1999. Library image.

Bluewater, the retail centre that transformed the lives of Kent shoppers, is 10 years old.

On March 16, 1999, a 50-acre worked-out chalk quarry near Greenhithe finally opened as Europe's leading out-of-town shopping and leisure destination.

More than 300 retail units brought well-known high street names to the county for the first time. John Lewis Partnership opened its first Kent store, which was developed into a flagship outlet.

By offering a cinema, a climbing wall, restaurants, children’s creche, as well as shops, shoppers were encouraged to increase their 'dwell time'. In other words, they stayed longer and spent more.

Bluewater triggered a retail renaissance across Kent as towns worried about losing shoppers to their new neighbour sharpened up their act. It led directly to the setting up of complexes such as Fremlin Walk in Maidstone, Whitefriars in Canterbury, and Westwood Cross in Broadstairs.

Since opening day, more than a quarter of a billion people have visited Bluewater. It has contributed an estimated £325million to the local community, injected £60million in local businesses among some 9,000 contractors, and created a total of 22,000 jobs.

Joanne Webster, a company director with Webster’s pen shop has worked at Bluewater since January 1999. She said: "We have stores in other shopping centers in the south east - but Bluewater has this amazing ability to just get in your whole psyche."

Ken Francis, senior events coordinator, also joined Bluewater in January 1999. He takes guests and VIPs around the centre.

He said: "I like the way it is so varied and meeting interesting people - whether they are Bluewater guests or celebrities - and working with a good team. There is a lot of help between teams."

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