The festive trading period is well underway, with dazzling lighting displays adorning key streets across the district, seasonal activations captivating shoppers in-store, and on-street entertainment ensuring that the festive magic is felt by one and all.
November update from New West End Company
On 2 November, we were joined by Millie Bright, Captain of the Lionesses and the Chelsea Football Club, and supporter of our charity partner, Starlight, for the switch-on of the iconic Oxford Street Christmas lights. It was a pleasure to host members and other stakeholders at our annual corporate festive event later that evening, where we heard from Cathy Gilman, Starlight’s CEO and Sfiyah, a beneficiary of the charity who moved the room with a poem she had written about her experience in hospital last Christmas, and the role Starlight played in brightening her stay.
This year, we are inviting members of the public to sponsor a star in Oxford Street’s display to support Starlight’s mission to help children and families who are in hospital at this time of year. We are pleased to announce that, with four weeks left until the New Year, the public have already been incredibly supportive of the campaign, with donations flowing in steadily.
Regent Street was aglow the week after, with The Crown Estate switching on its spectacular 'Spirit of Christmas' lighting display on 9 November. On 16 November, Bond Street and Mayfair were lit up too, with the beautiful Bond Street lights acting as a homage to the world-renowned jewellery houses on the street, as well as the Crown Jewels themself.
Other festive installations unveiled that evening included the ‘Starlight Faerie’ - an interactive piece of public art, through which passersby can donate to Starlight - and the iconic Ralph Lauren sponsored ‘Giving Tree’, in aid of The Royal Marsden Fund. All of these installations create a magical setting for visitors to enjoy a plethora of festive experiences helping drive a forecasted boost in spending this year, to £1.64 billion.
To provide additional support during the busy festive trading period, for the second year in a row, we are also investing in a significant uplift in targeted security and cleansing activity as part of ‘Operation West End’ - please find further details of the programme and how you can get involved below.
The enduring appeal of the West End, particularly at Christmas time, is reflective of its ability to deliver unique experiences which cannot be found online. It seems that every week a new brand opens its doors onto the nation’s high street, underlining the continued appeal of physical retail. This month was no different, with HMV returning to its iconic shopfront with much fanfare after a four year absence. HMV replaced what had been the largest candy store on the street, confirming that the West End remains one of the most sought after locations for brands old and new to engage with the public.
This was certainly evident across the Black Friday weekend, which saw the first significant spike in footfall during the festive period, as predominantly domestic shoppers turned out in numbers to snap up the best deals. Indeed, that Saturday was the West End’s busiest day of 2023 so far and, in what is a milestone for the district, it also reached pre-pandemic footfall levels – coming in marginally higher than the Saturday after Black Friday in 2019.
The buzz around Black Friday weekend sets a positive tone for the festive trading period, welcome news for businesses across the district for whom the next few weeks are absolutely critical. However, we cannot afford to ignore the reality that, according to our festive forecast, it will be international visitors driving our recovery this winter, as squeezed Brits continue to grapple with the cost-of-living crisis.
That is why I penned an article in Retail Week earlier this month, outlining exactly why the Chancellor must reinstate tax-free shopping without delay. Our Q3 2023 data revealed that the gap between international footfall and spend is growing quarter on quarter, with the worsening situation covered by national and international media, including Bloomberg and The Telegraph. New West End Company findings on the impact that tax-free shopping has had on West End businesses were also reiterated both on BBC Breakfast and BBC Online, and we continue to leverage all insight available to us to underline the urgency of the current situation.
In mid-November, New West End Company attended the in-person panel committee for the inquiry into ‘Promoting Britain Abroad’, where we presented evidence about the impact of losing tax-free shopping for the West End. We were also invited to meet the new Treasury officials responsible for tax-free shopping policy to discuss the evidence which has been submitted by New West End Company, the Association of International Retail, and directly by New West End Company members. Representatives from the department of His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs present at the meeting were also interested in our data.
We welcomed the Chancellor’s indication in the Autumn Statement that the Treasury is continuing to review all evidence of the impact of tax-free shopping. In response to a question from Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown - who we thank for his continued advocacy on the issue - Jeremy Hunt said that he “hoped” a reassessment of the policy would show a diminished cost to the Treasury when compared to earlier estimates.
With all independent evidence showing that reinstating tax-free shopping would have a net positive effect on tax-revenues, we would urge him to conduct this reassessment without delay. We will also continue to work with you to submit further evidence to the Treasury underlining the impact of losing tax-free shopping.
Whilst we are not at the end of 2023 yet, there is much that we have been able to achieve together, from the celebration of a Coronation, to the unveiling of the long-awaited Oxford Street Programme – all whilst remaining on track to reach our annual turnover of £10 billion by 2025. I look forward to our continued partnership, and no doubt sharing many future successes in 2024 and beyond.
With that in mind, I wish you all the very best for the rest of the festive trading period, and cannot wait to reconnect after a well deserved break in the New Year.
KING'S SPEECH & AUTUMN STATEMENT
We were pleased to hear in the King’s Speech that there will be new regulation introduced for pedicabs, a measure that has long been campaigned for by Westminster City Council and Nickie Aiken MP. The licensing system will no doubt have an immediate, positive impact on the West End, and will be welcomed by businesses and members of the public alike. We hope to see this legislation introduced quickly, to allow action to be taken.
The prioritisation of tackling crime and anti-social behaviour in the King's Speech was also welcome, although the lack of clarity on how the urgent issue of retail crime will be addressed was concerning. We continue to liaise with the Metropolitan Police Service, including the Commissioner for Frontline Policing, Louise Rolfe, to ensure that the needs of our members are heard.
We were disappointed that the Chancellor failed to directly address the lack of tax-free shopping for overseas visitors in the Autumn Statement, although it was referenced in his 11 measures for growth. However, confirmation that the Treasury continues to review all data made available to it is encouraging, and we are continuing to work with members to submit further representations – both directly to Treasury, and through New West End Company submissions – to demonstrate the real impact of losing tax-free shopping.
We also feel that, whilst an extended freeze on business rates will be a short-term respite for smaller businesses, the exclusion of larger businesses, including high street retailers, will only act as a further drag on growth in what is an already challenging economic environment.
Read our full response to the King’s Speech here, and to the Autumn Statement here. To share your thoughts on policy issues, and inform New West End Company’s public affairs programme for 2024 / 2025, please contact Lorna Keegan, Head of Corporate Affairs at Lorna.Keegan@newwestend.com
TAX-FREE CAMPAIGN UPDATE
In mid-November, we released our latest Q3 2023 data, which revealed a growing gap between the number of international tourists visiting the capital and their propensity to spend – a major cause for concern for West End businesses. We have found that this gap is widening quarter on quarter; when compared to 2019, the gap between international visitor travel and spend has grown from 1 percentage point in Q1 2023, to 31 points in Q3 2023.
The gap is particularly pronounced for Chinese visitors, who are increasingly returning to the U.K. following the lifting of restrictions on travel. In September, the first full month without travel restrictions, arrivals from China were just 2% shy of 2019 figures, but spend was down 58%. The research was covered by international and national press, including WWD, Retail Week, The Telegraph and Bloomberg.
If you would like to submit further evidence on the impact of losing tax-free shopping on your business, please contact Artjom Hatsaturjants, Head of Business Intelligence, at email@example.com
On Oxford Street, the festive season commenced on 2 November, when we switched on our iconic festive lights in partnership with children’s charity, Starlight, and with the support of Millie Bright, Captain of the Lionesses and the Chelsea Football Club. The moment was widely covered by press, and featured on The One Show, BBC London, Evening Standard and the Independent. In total, the lights switch-on received over 200 pieces coverage.
Speaking at the corporate switch-on event, Cathy Gilman, Chief Executive at Starlight, said: “This Christmas, 100,000 children across the U.K. will be spending Christmas in hospital and that means thousands of anxious parents and siblings too. Starlight believes that every child should be able to live their life fully even when they are sick. Our partnership with New West End Company through the ‘Sponsor a Star for Starlight’ campaign means that many more children will have the space, time and opportunity to play, helping them to forget their treatment anxieties and fears.”
On 9 November, Regent Street was transformed with the switch-on of the spectacular 'Spirit of Christmas' lighting installation. Crafted by British artisans, the display is inspired by Regent Street's very first Christmas lights, unveiled in 1954, which featured traditional angels. From 16 November, Bond Street saw the switch-on of its own dazzling Christmas lights display. The event was accompanied by on-street activations, from gospel singers to the unveiling of the iconic Ralph Lauren sponsored Christmas tree in aid of The Royal Marsden Fund.
The same evening, at the corner of Oxford Street and South Molton Street, passersby were greeted called the ‘Starlight Faerie’ - an interactive piece of public art crafted by local artists. The faerie was created using waste materials recovered from across Westminster; tealights from Westminster Abbey have been given new life as the faerie’s corset, whilst a mannequin from a busy Oxford Street store was transformed into the faerie herself. Delivered in partnership between New West End Company and Veolia, the sculpture will also act as a donation point for visitors to the district to seamlessly tap and donate directly to children’s charity, Starlight.
If you are able to this year, we would encourage you to make a donation either online, or at the on-street donation points integrated into the ‘Starlight Faerie’ at South Molton street and on-screen at the Outernet. Every donation will support a child in hospital this Christmas.
For more detail on the average opening hours of businesses across the West End this festive season, please click here. For granular detail on specific stores, please contact Vanessa McAuliffe, Business Engagement Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The West End continues to be impacted by a large number of gatherings, protests and marches related to the Israel-Hamas war, given its convenient location in Central London and close proximity to high profile march locations, including Hyde Park corner, Park Lane, Trafalgar Square and Whitehall. We continue to be in close contact with the Metropolitan Police Service, and respond to new intelligence with resource uplifted as required. We have also submitted two business impact assessments directly to the Metropolitan Police Service, outlining the effect of the marches on the district, as well as measures which we feel could be implemented to mitigate any future impact. Should you wish to share any specific impact to your business as a result of the protests, please contact Jamie Conroy, Security and Operations Manager, at email@example.com
‘Operation West End’ started on 27 November, and is a four-week programme of targeted security and cleansing activity from New West End Company teams. This will be bolstered throughout the period by additional resource provision from our partners at the Metropolitan Police Service. To find out more about the programme, including how to book a free bulky waste collection, please contact Bruna Silva, Head of Placemaking, at firstname.lastname@example.org
We continue to work with the Metropolitan Police Service on 'Operation Krawatte', which aims to reduce thefts from person by robustly targeting offenders and disrupting organised crime groups. This successful partnership has seen an increase in intelligence gathered and sanctions implemented, whilst also identifying and safeguarding vulnerable individuals who have been exploited. The operation has now been extended until January 2024, to account for the seasonal increase in these types of offences during the festive trading period.
On 6 November, New West End Company hosted a Security Engagement Day for member businesses to meet with our Operations team to discuss and workshop any security concerns. The session was well attended by store managers, security managers and door security staff, with our partner, Safer Business Network, also showcasing the benefits of its new and improved intelligence-sharing platform Alert. If you were unable to attend the session, and would like the opportunity to do so in the future, please contact Jamie Conroy, Security and Operations Manager, at email@example.com
Dain Robinson, Head of Sustainability, and Artjom Hatsaturjants, Head of Business Intelligence, launched the Sustainability Landscape programme; an opportunity for members to receive bespoke insights on the progress of sustainability initiatives across the West End, and to share any sustainability issues, challenges or opportunities they are experiencing directly with New West End Company.
On 22 November, members of New West End Company's team went on a tour of our cleansing partner Veolia’s waste material recovery facility in Southwark, to fully understand how waste in Westminster is collected, segregated and recycled
If you are interested in arranging a Sustainability Landscape session, or a similar recycling tour for your employees in February or March, please contact Dain Robinson, Head of Sustainability, at firstname.lastname@example.org
The New West End Company Board met with the Conservative Mayoral Candidate, Susan Hall, and discussed her campaign priorities. These included ensuring London is a safe city for residents and visitors alike, as well working with bodies such as Transport for London to keep the city moving. Lorna Keegan, Head of Corporate Affairs, also had the opportunity earlier in the month to meet with Susan Hall at a private lunch session with other London business leaders, where they discussed the importance of safeguarding London’s international competitiveness, of which tax-free shopping is a key component, in order to drive inward investment and sustained growth.
New West End Company were delighted to attend the 35th Annual Westminster Property Association (WPA) Lunch, where we heard about the opportunities available to the property sector in Westminster, as well as the fantastic work being done by the WPA’s charity partner, the Young Westminster Foundation, to drive diversity and accessibility in the industry. We also thank Marcus Geddes, WPA's Chair, for highlighting the importance of the Oxford Street Programme, and showcasing it as a perfect example of successful public private partnership.
On 27 November, we hosted our Community Festive Reception at the House of St. Barnabas. The evening was well attended, and we were delighted to share our plans to develop a New West End Community Strategy, in partnership with Publica. The strategy will reflect our ambition to better serve our wider West End community by tangibly addressing local needs and challenges. It will launch in Spring 2024, after a period of consultation with community stakeholder groups, local businesses and workers. Click on the image below to find out more information on the consultation.
We were delighted that the Hanover Square redevelopment was highly commended in the Public Spaces Category at the New London Awards 2023. The work was recognised by the judges for its commitment in honouring the square’s historic importance, whilst simultaneously creating an enhanced civic space in the heart of London. A big congratulations to Cynthia Grant, the Project Manager for the Hanover Square redevelopment.
At the end of November, our Head of Partnerships, Danielle Purnell, attended MAPIC – an annual international three-day conference which gathers retail, property, food & leisure leaders from over 75 countries.
New West End Company will be attending MIPIM, and we would love to connect with those from across our district who are also going. If you or a member of your team is planning to be attendance, please contact Izzy Coote, Corporate Events and Digital Marketing Manager, at email@example.com, so we can sure you receive an invitation to relevant New West End Company events.