The festive season is well and truly underway in the West End, as November saw the launch of the iconic Christmas lights across Oxford Street, Bond Street and Regent Street.
CEO Update: November 2022
We are of course aware that this year will be a challenging Christmas for so many people across the Capital and further afield, as the cost of living crisis tightens. Our displays present an opportunity for people to experience some festive cheer, enjoying the magic of the West End and all it has to offer this Christmas.
However we are delighted to start the festive season on a positive note for our members, with the Chancellor last week announcing in his Autumn Statement that business rates will be reduced. Retailers across the West End will enjoy lower rates from April next year, with lower rateable values set to save millions. Read more in the section below about what this might mean for your business.
We also launched our Christmas forecast, featured in media outlets such as the Evening Standard and City AM, predicting £1.55 billion to be spent over the 8-week Christmas trading period. While this represents a 24% uplift on 2021’s spending, as domestic tourists flock to the West End to take in the unique festive experience, we have not yet reached our pre-pandemic peak, still down 28% on the 2019 Christmas season.
Alongside the rest of the industry, our belief is that this shortfall is largely down to falling annual numbers of international visitors on our high streets. Following the Chancellor’s u-turn on tax-free shopping, we continued to advocate for its reintroduction, working with our partners at the Association of International Retail (AIR) to promote their report ‘Assessing the impact of tax-free shopping the UK’, compiled by Oxford Economics. The report finds that, far from the £2 billion annual cost previously estimated by Government, tax-free shopping would benefit the Treasury by £350 million a year.
Westminster has also taken a further step on its journey to becoming a net-zero borough with the launch of Westminster City Council and Westminster Property Association’s Sustainable City Charter. This is a huge milestone in the journey to net-zero across the borough and supports a key part of our own West End Road To Zero Action Plan. It is also a timely launch, coinciding with COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh – you can read our roundup of this year's conference here.
We look forward to working closely with colleagues across Westminster to further develop the Sustainable City Charter's evolving toolkit of support, advice and local case studies designed to help all kinds of businesses in the city, regardless of where you are on your journey to tackling climate change. You can read more about the Charter in the section below.
Finally, it was a pleasure to join the Mayor of London, the Secretary of State for Transport Mark Harper MP, Transport Commissioner Andy Lord and Heart of London Business Alliance CEO Ros Morgan to celebrate six months since the opening of the Elizabeth Line.
I’d like to extend my thanks to Axel Rüger and the team at the Royal Academy of Arts for hosting the event and, of course, to all those who played a part in delivering such a pivotal infrastructure project for London and the wider UK.
Our ongoing efforts to effect real change across the business rates system proved to be successful, as the Chancellor confirmed in his Autumn Statement that the 2021 revaluation will see rateable values across the West End lowered from April 2023.
We have therefore achieved both of our objectives; to persuade the Valuation Office Agency to lower rateable values across the West End and to ensure that the reduction is implemented in year one.
This has led to a drop of 36%, 26% and 6% in rates across Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street respectively, saving our members millions annually.
But we will continue to push for a fundamental review of the businesses rates system, which we do not believe is fit for purpose in an increasingly digital economy.
The Autumn Statement Business Rates Factsheet can be read here.
West End Lights Up For Christmas
Christmas kicked off in the West End on Oxford Street on the 2nd of November as the street’s celebrated Christmas lights were switched on. This year’s display uses two-thirds less energy than last year, using 300,000 energy-efficient LED lights for reduced operating hours in response to the ongoing energy crisis.
The five thousand brilliant white stars set above Oxford Street were switched on as part of our wider ‘It’s the Love You Give’ campaign, honouring all those who deserve a special treat as we enter the festive season. Partnering with Home-Start, we have donated 100 hampers from our iconic retailers to a number of families from around the Capital, while our ‘Star of the Week’ initiative recognises six individuals that have made an impact on specific people or their wider community, and indulges them in a day of star treatment on Oxford Street.
Earlier this month, The Crown Estate recycled its ‘Spirit of Christmas’ scheme, with the stunning installations soaring through the skies above the Regent Street and St James's. The Crown Estate is committed to energy use reduction across all its destinations, and therefore is running the lights on a timer, will be switching the lights off during the night, and using renewable energy. This year, The Crown Estate has also taken further steps to reduce energy consumption, by reducing the hours they are lit – from 3pm to 11pm.
On the 17th of November, the West End’s festive lights were completed as Bond Street’s spectacular new Christmas lights were switched on.
The display is inspired by The Crown Jewels and the world-famous jewellery houses that have settled in the street over the years. Utilising over 93,000 LEDs, this year’s lights generate an energy efficiency saving of 75%.
Sustainable City Charter
On the 16th of November, we joined Westminster City Council and Westminster Property Association in their launch of the Sustainable City Charter at the Royal College of Nursing.
The Charter is designed to build a strong business partnership on climate action, encouraging all businesses to act collaboratively with Westminster City Council in tackling climate change and sustainability.
Covering areas including energy, procurement, deliveries, waste and collaboration, the Charter includes eight commitments, on which businesses will provide annual updates on their progress, alongside energy consumption.
For more information and to express your interest in signing up to the Charter, click here