£1.55 billion is forecast to be spent over the 8-week Christmas trading period, up a quarter (24%) from 2021 but still down 28% on 2019 figures.
£1.55 Billion set to be spent in West End's first restriction-free Christmas in Three Years
LONDON - Wednesday 2nd November, 2021 - West End retailers are facing a challenging festive trading period amidst the rising cost of living and a continued absence of high spending international travellers, despite the opportunities promised for the first restriction-free Christmas in three years..
The latest figures from New West End Company, which represents 600 retail, restaurant, hotel and property owners across Bond Street, Oxford Street, Regent Street and Mayfair, forecast that sales this peak season will hit £1.55 billion, making up a quarter (25%) of all sales across the year.
Despite spending predicted to be up a quarter (24%) year-on-year, turnover is still 28% less than the pre-pandemic levels of 2019. Footfall figures for the district are also due to remain at 83% of those in 2019. With footfall expected to remain consistent with last month’s figures, it is suggested that many shoppers are looking to spread their Christmas shopping across the eight week trading period in order to more easily budget.
Dee Corsi, Interim Chief Executive of New West End Company said: “We know that this year’s festive season may be particularly challenging with the continued cost of living increases, and we’re expecting some families to be more cautious with how they spend. However, the West End is much more than shopping and there are plenty of festive experiences - such as our world-renowned lights - which we encourage families to visit and enjoy for free.
"Whilst I’m heartened to see the West End’s recovery continue to grow this winter, for us to succeed in the long-term we need to ensure that the nation’s high street and the wider country remains globally competitive. There are a number of simple routes to achieving this that the Government is overlooking, or simply ignoring. Without an independent assessment of tax-free shopping and a review of Sunday trading hours in London’s International Centres, we risk putting London and the UK at a severe global disadvantage.”
NWEC, along with a growing number of retailers, leisure operators and associations, is calling on the Treasury to reconsider its decision to reverse plans to reintroduce VAT free shopping for international visitors. Since its abolition last year, other major world cities have benefited from a 20 per cent price advantage over the UK, pushing it even further down the travel wish list for high-net-worth tourists.
NWEC is also asking for a simplification of the UK’s visitor visa system, which has fallen behind those offered by competing destinations such as Paris and Milan, and an extension to Sunday trading hours in London’s two International Centres (the West End and Knightsbridge).
International shoppers are often disappointed to find that stores are forced to close by 6pm on Sundays, limiting potential spending. NWEC believes that it is crucial that retail businesses are given the opportunity to cater to weekend city break shoppers, with its own research estimating that an additional £250 million worth of sales would be generated annually at no extra cost to the Treasury.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Many West End businesses are facing another uncertain winter as they navigate the fallout from the pandemic and the cost of living crisis which is also impacting the cost of doing business. Whilst I’m delighted we can now welcome everyone back to the West End, it is clear more needs to be done to ensure this vital part of the London economy returns to full strength after three challenging years.
“My campaign, ‘Let’s Do London’, the biggest international tourism campaign the city has ever seen, is bringing visitors back to our city and I was proud to attend the opening of the new Elizabeth Line station at Bond Street last month, making the West End more accessible to Londoners and visitors.
“Helping the West End to bounce back from the pandemic is a crucial part of London’s wider recovery. The Government must do all they can to support businesses and this should start with the reintroduction of tax free shopping for tourists, making London and the UK a more attractive place for international tourists to visit, bringing in far more money to the Treasury than it costs.”
Cllr Geoff Barraclough, Westminster City Council’s Cabinet Member for Place Shaping and Economic Development, said: “Once again, the West End is doing us proud with its festive displays, proving why it really is the nation’s high street.
“It’s a reminder of why it is too important to the country’s economy for us to get this wrong. Despite the jolly appearance, help is needed.
“The virtuous circle that saw the West End ecosystem of big employers, tourism, culture, retail, and leisure each helping to sustain each other, was broken during the pandemic – posing significant challenges.
Our businesses are rising to meet these challenges. As a local authority we are joining in efforts to reach out to big name brands across the world to come and set up store here, and on a local level we are encouraging local entrepreneurs by offering short term spaces. And on top of that we’ve announced plans to invest in Oxford Street with new, wider pavements, LED lighting, trees, and extra places to sit down.
A thriving West End is in the national interest, and we need Government’s support. As we saw with candy stores, ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away, it only makes it worse. We must make sure everything is in place for 2023 to seize on the post-pandemic opportunities.”
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Notes to Editors
About New West End Company
New West End Company is a partnership of 600 retail, restaurant, hotel and property owners across the world's top shopping and leisure destination anchored by Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street.
It works in partnership delivering transformational projects, sustainable place management, destination marketing, advocacy, inward investment and commercial insights. It is an influential business voice, active in the wider community and a key partner in delivering a new West End.