Retail Destination takes a look at Camden Market’s newest addition
Hawley Wharf was acquired by property investment group LabTech in 2014. The investment group’s vision for the scheme was to establish Hawley Wharf as a destination within Camden Market – one of London’s already most vibrant and exciting areas – with a view creating a distinct place that complements its surrounding offer -meaning it must be both different from what Camden already has but connected.
After seven years in development, phase one of Hawley Wharf opened in August 2021. Maggie Milosavljevic, LabTech commercial director, says that having consulted with the consumers, Camden Market management has worked on a strategy that engages not only with tourists but local consumers too.
In 2020, the Camden Market owners transformed part of the Market on Buck Street to an eco-friendly market in order to celebrate the importance of sustainability. In 2021, the team focused on Camden Market Hawley Wharf, which is now a house to independent retailers and famous street food concepts, that also keeps its spirit and allows bespoke start up offerings to launch their products within the development with a mind to grow.
“Camden has always been a great incubator of new and emerging brands, and Camden Market Hawley Wharf is now very much part of this,” says Milosavljevic.
There is already diverse mix of food and beverage operators at the destination, including well-known London brands like Bun House, Three Uncles, Long Boys, and Rudie’s, and completely new concepts like Stilvi, Khaao, and The Black Cow. There is also a mix of retail options like cult skateboard brand Scum, the 100% natural vegan and organic skincare brand, SknFed, and a huge array of independents covering textiles, hand-crafted toys and figurines, artwork, and more.
Over 90% of the development is now open or under offer, with new brands set to join in the coming months, including some leisure concepts – one of which will be making a UK debut and taking three floors within the basement of the destination – and restaurants for the two rooftop spaces, alongside a ’landmark’ Curzon cinema.
LabTech’s focus for the 580,000 sq ft mixed-used destination, says Milosavljevic, is on drawing on Camden’s rich heritage, and providing both local people and tourists with an array of options: “Camden Market Hawley Wharf supports independent businesses and is always looking for brands that add something new to the growing market space.
“As a family-friendly and bustling hub of culture, it demonstrates that places can encompass a whole range of brand names, whether established or starting up, that resonate with the local people.”
The biggest challenge for the new destination so far has been encouraging people to come to a location which has been in development for so many years, especially on the back of a pandemic and in a place which has such a bold and distinct heritage.
“We want people to understand that Camden Market Hawley Wharf extends this heritage further and provides the local community with even more options and opportunities,” says Milosavljevic. “It is more than just an F&B and retail market; it is a place that welcomes innovative and creative brands, working alongside the local community and providing a space that is friendly, exciting and adventurous.”
Alongside supply and staffing levels which have been a common issue amongst many destinations, she says that Camden as a whole is also grappling with the loss of tourism due to Covid. She says, however, that more local people have been visiting the tourism-dominated destination, which has been a huge positive and is what has kept a lot of Camden’s traders going.
“As time goes on, and tourists come back, part of the challenge to LabTech – be it for Camden Market Hawley Wharf, or the other parts of the Market within the Camden estate – is to give local people a continued reason to come to Camden, while re-capturing the tourism levels that Camden has always had because of its uniqueness and heritage,” she adds.
Interview with Maggie Milosavljevic, LabTech commercial director
What has been your career progression to becoming a commercial director?
I worked on the restaurant side of Harrods for over 15 years, and have been in my current role at LabTech for three and a half years. In this time, we have delivered some amazing projects at the Camden Markets, such as relaunching the North Yard with Indian Alley, Baladin Restaurant, Rudy’s Dirty Vegan, Phillippe Conticini Bakery and Tearoom, Hans and Gretel, and The Farrier. We have designed and built the UK’s first eco-market, Camden Market Buck Street, that champions sustainability and ethical food, and are now focusing on the successful opening of Camden Market Hawley Wharf. My role is mainly focused on the leasing activities within the markets, as well as the operational side.
Why did you want to be commercial director at LabTech?
Many people wondered why I left Knightsbridge and joined Camden in this new role. The answer is simple – Harrods was amazing, but Camden has life and soul like no other place, and is home to so many unique and independent businesses, from tailors, makers and vintage shops, to street food operators and restaurants. When I saw the future potential for the Camden Markets, and realised how much they could grow, I immediately accepted the position.
What about your job do you love the most?
Meeting with new, independent and creative brands is something I really enjoy, and it’s great to play a role in helping them grow in organic and exciting ways. Camden is the starting point in so many brand journeys, and it’s great to witness those brands open further locations following success here. The role I have, much like Camden itself, is very dynamic – every day is different, presenting new tasks and unique opportunities that I can get involved in.
What is the most challenging part about being commercial director?
Right now, the shortages of everything in the UK are a challenge, particularly for kitchen equipment and specific delays in order deliveries, and staffing. These are things we are not directly responsible for as a landlord, but LabTech’s stewardship of Camden is not like a traditional landlord-tenant relationship; we take it upon ourselves to incubate and support, and a large part of that is helping businesses and individual entrepreneurs in our ecosystem. I spend a lot of my time talking to people, understanding their challenges, and helping them find solutions. We’ve needed to do this more over the past year and a half for obvious reasons, and when you add the new tenants at Camden Market Hawley Wharf, you see that the number of businesses we monitor is only growing. This is the challenge, but it’s an important part of what LabTech needs to do to keep Camden vibrant.
What do you think are the most important issues currently facing retail?
The retail sector has had a difficult journey over the past year, and I think everyone understands and can appreciate the issues that retail is facing. It will be some time before it can make a full recovery, but the past few months have shown that retail does have the potential to be restored, and it’s great to play a part in that. I think it’s important for consumers to focus on small independent retail and F&B brands, and support those, as they will be the ones to save the high streets. We should be focusing on our communities, understanding their needs, and building the ecosystems in a way that continues to support local businesses, which in a place like Camden have the power to draw local people and international tourists in equal measure.
If you were doing something other than your current role, what would it be?
I love what I’m doing now, and have such a passion for it that I honestly don’t know what else I could do. We are working on so many projects, some of which you may already be aware of, such as the 40-metre observation wheel for Camden Market. We have numerous immersive experiences as well as other entertainment and leisure concepts that are almost ready to be announced. My focus now, and for the next part of my career, is to put Camden back on the map for Londoners, while focusing on building back the international tourist footfall and seeing the destination thrive.
This was first published in Retail Destination Fortnightly. Click here to subscribe.