By Jace Tyrrell, Chief Executive
Despite a tough year for retail and leisure businesses, London’s West End & Mayfair have weathered problems on the high street and sector to maintain our position as the number one shopping destination in Europe. According to retail property advisor Harper Dennis Hobbs’ latest research, shoppers have spent £9.1 billion in the West End this year so far, which is a 12% increase from 2017, demonstrating the area’s resilience and unique features that enable it to outperform other retail centres.
With Christmas only five weeks away, retailers and restaurants are looking forward to a prosperous end of year. New West End Company is predicting that £2.51 billion will be spent in London’s West End & Mayfair over the eight-week festive period.
Bricks and mortar retail is rapidly evolving to keep up with changing consumer shopping habits and high expectations. Over the past year we have seen our stores become cafés, spas, fitness studios and showrooms, creating the environment that will increase dwell time and repeat visits through experience-led retail. Christmas time is a chance for retailers to exploit different business models that resonate with tomorrow’s consumers, focusing on experiential moments to draw shoppers into their stores to spend.
We have even adapted the Oxford Street Christmas Lights to reflect this trend. For the first time this year, we replaced the traditional switch on show with a brand new event format, including a surprise moment at Oxford Circus where traffic was momentarily stopped for a musical performance and pop-up gigs in stores by up and coming artists along the street.
On the day of the switch on, I spoke to BBC News about this wide-reaching trend. It’s not only on Oxford Street where we’re seeing this shift, but across luxury and all departments. Watch my BBC interview on the national business show below.
At New West End Company, we are already looking ahead towards 2019 where the arrival of Crossrail and over £150 million of public realm enhancements will truly transform the district, re-affirming our world-leading shopping and leisure destination. These changes are anticipated to increase visits to the district to 60 million a year and annual turnover in the area to £12 billion by 2020.
Part of this evolution in the West End will be as a result of the new City Plan, launched by Westminster City Council this week. Within the plan are several updates which New West End Company has been campaigning for. Firstly the £9 billion contribution the West End makes to London’s economy every year, has been recognised by giving the area a special status in the city. Increased flexibility in planning rules has also been introduced to meet the needs of changing retail, allowing units to introduce leisure options in their existing units. The Council’s acknowledgement of the importance of this trend will help drive good growth in the West End & Mayfair, supporting 75,000 jobs and ensuring our district maintains its position as one of the world’s top shopping and leisure destinations.