June has seen several significant milestones for NWEC and the wider West End Community, in addition to the daily activity we undertake on members’ behalf to ensure the district’s continued reputation as an iconic retail and leisure destination.
June update from New West End Company
In partnership with Westminster City Council (WCC), we were delighted to host an event at The Portman Estate’s redevelopment One Great Cumberland Place, with a stunning view along a sunny Oxford Street.
The Oxford Street Programme presents the opportunity for a once-in-a-generation transformation and is a necessary commitment to ensuring a long-term and sustainable future for the district.
Successful delivery of the Oxford Street Programme will strengthen the global perceptions of the street and wider district, through public realm enhancements such as additional greening. Together, these enhancements will secure Oxford Street's status as a great place for shoppers, tourists, residents and workers alike.
This month, new research from Retail Week, in partnership with JDM Retail and HSBC UK, has revealed that the West End is the most vibrant retail destination in the UK, by quite some distance, but we cannot become complacent. The West End is greater than the sum of its parts and every part of it needs to work together to ensure a vibrant and thriving future.
We had the pleasure of hosting BusinessLDN's Breakfast briefing with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley QPM. The event provided valuable insights into the Commissioner's leadership and his reform agenda, highlighting the benefits of collaboration between the public and private sectors. My thanks to the BusinessLDN team and Sir Mark Rowley QPM for making the event a resounding success.
Earlier this month I was invited to sit on the panel at the launch of Westminster City Council’s Fairer Economy Plan.
This plan includes key commitments to create a fair economy and ensure equal benefits for everyone, as outlined in the recently published Fairer Westminster Strategy and Delivery Plan. With a short-medium term focus, the Council's Fairer Economy Plan details key activities to be undertaken over the next 3 years to enhance equality and access to Westminster’s economic opportunities for residents.
It was invaluable to hear first-hand from Westminster about their goals and initiatives surrounding the plan, which aims to collaborate with stakeholders to co-develop local, long-term objectives and deliver the necessary coordinated action. A core component of the Plan shared by the WCC team was the centrality of a Vibrant West End to securing economic opportunities, something we are committed to ensuring through our ongoing work with members and partners.
We look forward to working with Westminster closely on this.
Despite the positive activity throughout our district, we are experiencing a slowdown in domestic spend as a result of the changing economic environment and impact of the cost-of-living crisis, so last week’s interest rate rise is clearly disappointing. Currently our amended forecasts show the West End is still on track to reach £10bn in sales by 2025, however with continued pressures on domestic wallets, it is imperative that we do all we can to encourage the international spend currently driving the district’s recovery.
To this end we are working tirelessly to urge the Chancellor to instruct a formal review of the current tax-free shopping policy to ensure we remain a competitive retail and leisure destination on the global stage.
I met with His Majesty's Treasury, to discuss the informal request for evidence which would precede any formal call for evidence and official policy review. In what is a significant win for our cross-party lobbying efforts, and in part down to the consistent drumbeat of media coverage, the Government has indicated it is listening and open to receiving evidence that shows the impact on business performance. We have shared guidance on how to submit evidence confidentially and are also offering 1:1 sessions with our Insights team for further support and advice.
In order to keep up the pressure on government for a change of policy, we are continuing to mobilise supportive departments for tourism and retail, backbench Conservative MPs and Peers, the Labour Party Front Bench, the Mayor of London and, in my capacity as Chairman of AIR, the UK regions.
We are also continuing to advocate for the reinstatement of tax-free shopping in the media. NWEC's inclusion in a front-page story in the Evening Standard, an interview on BBC Breakfast London, and commentary in City AM, Vogue Business and WWD, to name just a few, complement the ongoing campaigns in the Evening Standard and the Daily Mail. Stories from the businesses affected are far more compelling when told first-hand, and we are already meeting with members who are open to us further amplifying their experiences in the press.
LOOK UP, LOOK OUT CAMPAIGN
Our last members survey revealed that security was a top priority for members; something we highlighted in our new Business Plan for 2023 – 2026.
Across recent months, we have continued to work behind the scenes to ensure that our community benefits from a safe environment to work, shop and live. In June, we partnered with the Met Police to co-host an awareness briefing on their ongoing Look Up, Look Out campaign. Beyond offering an overview of the campaign, the webinar also focused on pickpocketing and luxury watch robberies, which we have heard are two particular areas of concern for our district.
The session was well attended, with 30 members dialling in to hear more. Inspector Aiveen McManus from our local WEPT Team, and Sergeant Darren Bond from the Violence Suppression Unit, shared guidance and tactics that can be used during the summer months to prevent street robberies.
WEST END ACTIVATIONS
June has seen a flurry of cultural events entertain visitors, from Art in Mayfair adorning Bond Street and neighbouring streets, to the NWEC-sponsored West End LIVE which saw 65,000 fans visit the district to enjoy Europe’s biggest free theatre festival.
PROUD WEST END
On the 28 June we launched Oxford Street’s very first Pride campaign, which runs from 28 June – 16 July. An interactive, audio-visual art exhibition, PROUD features the stories of 15 LGBTQIA+ people with personal connections to the district. We are delighted to have been able to contribute to the district’s progress towards greater diversity, and raising the profile of its LGBTQIA+ community.
The intimate exhibition is being hosted by The Portman Estate at Old Quebec Street, a nod to the heritage associated with the City of Quebec, one of the oldest gay pubs in London. Visitors can engage directly with an eclectic stories via a QR code on each portrait, including from individuals like Willem (he/him), the Global Flagship Talent Lead at Superdry on Oxford Street, or Jason (he/him) who works at Swingers, on Oxford Street.
WEST END INSIGHTS
Trade and visitation to the West End have been positive in 2023 so far, with overall spend up 17% on 2022 and footfall up 15% year-to-date.
Spend has also been steadily growing, with the West End having 4 consecutive months of higher spend vs. 2019 for the first time since the pandemic. This growth in spend is primarily driven by a high number of international tourists, accounting for 44% of all West End spend since the beginning of the year, vs. 42% in 2019. Domestic spend has been declining, possibly due to cost-of-living concerns and inflation.
The overall volume of international travel to London is expected to recover in June, with the number of visitors from the Middle East and USA already exceeding pre-pandemic levels. Greater numbers of Chinese tourists are expected in Q3 / Q4 of this year.
TAX-FREE CAMPAIGN UPDATE
Our campaign for tax-free shopping to be reinstated has gathered further momentum in recent weeks.
The informal request for evidence which would precede any formal call for evidence and official policy review, indicates that the government is open to listening and is an opportunity we cannot ignore. We know that the Treasury is particularly interested in receiving any data comparing UK sales to France and Italy, for 2019 versus 2023, for instance. We remain on hand to offer 1:1 guidance sessions and workshops to help brands prepare the right data in advance. We must remind you that all evidence shared with either NWEC as part of our district wide submission, or direct to the Treasury, is confidential and not for media use. Thank you to the brands we are already working closely with on this urgent matter.
Member businesses can also support by becoming media spokespeople on this issue. All major media, print and broadcast channels are keen to hear from businesses and we are coordinating all requests through our dedicated tax-free press office function.
SECURITY & OPS MONTHLY INTEL MEETINGS
We are pleased to offer Monthly Security and Operations Intelligence meetings to our member businesses as part of our commitment to maintaining a safe and secure West End. These meetings, held on the last Friday of each month, are crucial for sharing intelligence across the district.
To learn more about these meetings or sign up for our weekly security and operations email bulletins, please contact Jamie Conroy, our Security & Operations Manager here.