As we move into the summer months, activity across the district shows no sign of abating. News that we have secured a Parliamentary debate on reinstating tax-free shopping on 7 September is a milestone, not only for the New West End Company and our members, but for the entire tourism ecosystem.
Summer update from New West End Company
We have been campaigning for the return of tax-free shopping on your behalf since 2020, and we would like to thank Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, who has led this campaign in Parliament and will open the debate in September.
We are the only major European country not to offer the benefit of tax-free shopping to international visitors. We continue to be vocal about the impact it is having on members, and in recent weeks have had editorial features in City A.M., the Evening Standard and the Daily Mail, amongst others.
Many of our members have joined us in speaking out against the policy, highlighting the damage it has done to U.K. revenues. Your voices have been instrumental in boosting awareness of the blow the policy has dealt to the U.K. economy, and the damage it is doing to our international reputation.
Across the district, businesses continue to invest in their store experiences to remain competitive on the global stage. Most recently, Burberry reopened its global flagship store on New Bond Street, following a period of renovation. The opening was well received by industry, and has been heralded as marking an evolution of the brand’s store concept.
Elsewhere in the district, we have seen landmark openings and signings; after much excitement, Under Armour has finally opened the doors to its Brand House on Oxford Street. The store is both a milestone in the business' EMEA growth plan, and an example of retail innovation and enhanced customer experience. Connected changing rooms give customers the opportunity to feel, try and learn about the products through interactive touchscreens, whilst hand-painted artwork inspired by London adorns the store.
TikTok UK also opened its first bricks-and-mortar store in recent weeks. Its pop-up on Oxford Street allowed existing and prospective merchants and creators to explore the full possibilities of "community commerce". The business showcased the breadth of brands available on the platform in a real world context, and the store focused predominantly on tech, home & living and book product categories.
We are continuing to invest, alongside partners, in on-street activations which celebrate our community. PROUD West End, an immersive, audio-visual exhibition delivered in partnership with The Portman Estate, was so well received that its presence has been extended - visitors can now engage with the 'living portraits' in the new location in Grosvenor Square Gardens.
It is this sort of investment and experience innovation that the West End is known for globally, and which underpins our reputation for excellence. Ensuring that our visitors have safe, clean and healthy streets on which to enjoy the West End's offering also remains a key priority for us. Our security and cleansing teams continue to be a consistent presence across the district, supporting the Metropolitan Police and Westminster City Council to mitigate the impact of anti-social behaviour and protest activity on our members' businesses during the summer months
Harnessing the power of partnership is key to future growth. Following the unveiling of proposed designs for the Oxford Street Programme last month, the Programme has entered consultation phase, with Westminster City Council running a series of drop-in sessions, including presentations on the plan, throughout July and August.
This dialogue between private and public stakeholders and the district’s workers, residents and visitors is invaluable and reflective of the values of the district. In tandem, The Crown Estate is also conducting a public consultation on the future of Regent Street, which has benefited from several public realm enhancements in the last few years.
The Government’s decision to refuse Marks & Spencer planning permission for its Marble Arch store is a missed opportunity to deliver on a pivotal part of Oxford Street's future growth. It also misses the opportunity to capitalise on all the positive momentum the district is currently experiencing, including leveraging existing investment in the public realm and the Elizabeth Line, which has already delivered over 73 million visitors into Oxford Street stations since opening.
A thriving West End is necessary to support businesses throughout the U.K., acting as the national shop window for our most iconic brands. It is clear there is much to be done over the remainder of summer, but also that there is still much to be optimistic about as we look to the future of the West End.
I wish you all a successful summer trading period, and look forward to updating you after the summer.
ACT OPERATIONAL WORKSHOP
In partnership with the Metropolitan Police, our Operations and Security team held an ACT Operational Session for members. The session provided attendees with invaluable information on how to respond and prepare for a major incident within the district. Members were led through a series of informative question and answer rounds by PC Andy Kinsey and PC Eric Kirton from the Metropolitan Police Service, Proactive Security Operations, before moving onto scenario planning and group workshops.
The session was closed by John Coudriet from the West End Security Group, who directed attendees to a relevant, free counter terrorism collateral to support with organisational planning. This material has been developed in conjunction with partners such as the New West End Company to enable businesses of all sizes to adequately plan for the pending introduction of Martyn’s Law. The law is a piece of UK wide legislation which will require those responsible for the management of publicly accessible locations to consider the threat from terrorism and implement appropriate plans to mitigate this risk.
Following on from the workshop and part of our member focused Security & Resilience training, the New West End Company are encouraging all businesses to ensure their staff complete ACT Awareness e-learning, through a 45 minute awareness course.
We will continue to offer our members and partners free security resilience sessions in the coming months to support with their readiness preparations.
CONSULTATION: OXFORD STREET PROGRAMME AND REGENT STREET
There are currently two consultation programmes underway in the district, which both aim to shape the future of the West End in dialogue with residents, workers and visitors.
Following the launch of the proposed designs in June, the Oxford Street Programme is now in its consultation phase. This will allow those who live, work and visit the area to share their thoughts on the programme and shape the future of the nation’s high street. The consultation period runs until 31 August and more information and feedback on the proposal can be shared by clicking the button below.
The second consultation, looking at Regent Street, is being run by Westminster City Council in partnership with The Crown Estate and aims to develop a long-term vision for the design of the public space along and around Regent Street. This consultation runs until 30 August and more information and feedback on the proposal can be shared by clicking the button below.
TAX-FREE CAMPAIGN UPDATE
We continue to raise awareness in the media of the impact that the absence of tax-free shopping is having on our members, and many others across the country. Dee Corsi, Chief Executive of the New West End Company, has had opinion pieces and commentary features in a whole host of international and national press, including the Daily Mail (print and online), City A.M., the Evening Standard (print and online), WWD, and Drapers.
Securing the debate in Westminster is a positive step forward, but it has only been possible through our behind-the-scenes, cross-party lobbying efforts, led in Parliament by Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP and supported by consistent media coverage - set to continue in the lead-up to the debate, powered by a steady drumbeat of upcoming stories. It remains the case that the most compelling evidence that we can submit to His Majesty's Treasury is that which comes from businesses directly, so we also encourage members to provide us with supporting commentary for the press.
We continue to offer personalised, individual sessions for our members with our Insights team, providing support to brands who would like guidance through the process. Now that the debate date has been secured for early September, we would urge members to continue to submit evidence directly or through us.
Those who wish to speak to our Insights team should contact Artjom Hatsaturjants, Head of Businesses Intelligence, New West End Company, at Artjom.Hatsaturjants@newwestend.com
For those who wish to submit directly to the Treasury, the best contacts are:
KCWCC BUSINESS AWARDS 2023
Earlier this month our Business Engagement Manager, Vanessa McAuliffe, was asked to judge the Kensington, Chelsea & Westminster Chamber of Commerce Business Awards 2023. The judging day took place at the Copthorne Tara Hotel in Kensington, with a panel of ten judges. It was an incredibly productive day, with thirteen categories to judge. The categories ranged from Best New Business, to Best Hotel, Best Restaurant and Bar, as well as Best Business to Demonstrate Diversity. From large household names, to small independent establishments, all of the award entrants were an excellent example of their field.
The awards will take place in the Autumn where the winners of each category will be announced. More information on the KCWCC Business Awards 2023 can be found here.
A SUSTAINABLE DISTRICT
When we launched our new Business Plan for 2023 – 2026, one of the key changes we made was the addition of a fourth pillar: A Sustainable District. This month, we appointed a new Head of Sustainability, Dain Robinson, to spearhead this change.
She has already been making connections across the district to gather more information on the work that is already being done, and which can be done in the coming months and years, to ensure that the West End is on track to meet its sustainability aims.
She attended Westminster City Council’s Citizen’s Climate Assembly, as a representative of its Zero Emission Group, providing expert advice and feedback on the sustainability ideas and proposals raised by Westminster residents in the session. The initiative will continue to run throughout July, and has been designed to facilitate a dialogue with residents about how the climate emergency is tackled.
Earlier in July, Dain was joined by Bruna Silva, Head of Place Management at the New West End Company, in attendance at Veolia’s new waste management facility. The facility processes general waste collected by Westminster City Council, and creates electricity to power a fleet of 45 waste collection vehicles across the district. This circular programme is the first of its type and scale to be delivered in the U.K.
MEANWHILE ON PROGRAMME
This month Westminster City Council launched the next phase of the Meanwhile On Programme which looks to support innovative entrepreneurs and small retail businesses with space on the nation's high street.
Small business owners who are interested in the programme can apply via Westminster City Council. Click here for more information.
For property owners or agents that would like to hear more on the programme, please contact Nathan Vasey, Strategic Manger - Sectors, Enterprise and Investment at Westminster City Council by emailing him on firstname.lastname@example.org
WEST END INSIGHTS
This period saw continued spend growth thanks to the faster than expected return of international visitors. Spend was positive compared with 2019 for five consecutive months, which was the longest uninterrupted period of growth since the end of the pandemic.
Footfall levels this quarter are still 21% below comparable 2019 levels, and spend continues to outperform footfall. This is reflective of a "new normal" in terms of visitor patterns.
Domestic spending continues to decline, likely as a result of concerns about high inflation and the cost-of-living crisis.
- Footfall in the West End & Mayfair area in April, May, and June was up 1% compared to the previous quarter, and also up 1% vs the same period in 2022. Overall, footfall levels are starting to plateau into a “new normal”.
- The West End’s retail and leisure sales were up 12% from January to June compared with last year (2% up vs 2019), with the growth in spend accelerating thanks to the influx of high-spending international visitors from the US, Middle East, and, in smaller numbers, China.
- Sales and tourist travel in May were particularly strong. Spend was 10% above May 2019, while international air travel into London was 18% above.
- This spend growth was largely driven by international visitors (+43% year-on-year), while domestic spend was declining (-5%).
- The proportion of international shoppers in the West End has been steadily growing over the past year and is now the highest it has been since the end of the pandemic (45%).
Overall West End ATV stood at £123 in the year-to-date, up 1% compared to 2022. International ATV significantly outperformed the average at £156.