The West End festive season is truly upon us. With the switch on of the district's Christmas lights imminent, and members preparing to dazzle and delight visitors to the area, it is safe to say that anticipation of this all-important trading period is building.
October update from New West End Company
I was pleased to welcome so many members to our festive forecast event on 11 October, where our Insights team shared an optimistic outlook for the Christmas trading period. Marginal growth in overall spend is expected across the district being driven by the return of international visitors. However, domestic shoppers are set to take a cautious approach to Christmas once again, as they continue to grapple with the effects of the national cost-of-living crisis and high inflation.
As a district, our ability to provide world-class retail, leisure and hospitality experiences has sheltered us from the very worst of this downturn. That said, we cannot afford to ignore these trends, particularly the importance of international visitors, should we wish to stay on track to reach an annual turnover of £10 billion by 2025.
This means continuing to invest in the elements of the West End which truly distinguish us, globally, as a retail and leisure destination. At Christmas, this starts with the dazzling festive lights displays. As always, Oxford Street will lead the way, with its iconic lights installation brightening up the street from 2 November. The display will provide an incredible backdrop for all that the street has to offer, including our wonderful ‘Magic Days’, which will combine experiences and promotions with on-street roaming entertainment. This year, we are also delighted to be supporting a new charity partner, Starlight – a children’s charity which uses play to make the lives of children in hospitals brighter.
Bond Street and Conduit Street will join in the magic with their own lights displays, on from 16 November. Each street promises to deliver unique moments of festive cheer throughout the season, including live choirs, the dazzling Ralph Lauren Christmas tree, and exclusive shopping events and promotions.
To reassure visitors and businesses during this high footfall period, we are once again running ‘Operation West End’ – a four-week uplift in targeted security and cleansing activity, coupled with additional resource provision from our partners at the Metropolitan Police Service.
In October during the National Business Crime Week, I met with the Assistant Commissioner for Frontline Policing, Louisa Rolfe, where she committed to continuing to work with New West End Company to tackle the urgent issue of retail crime, which is affecting so many of our members. I look forward to working in partnership with the Metropolitan Police Service to deliver future initiatives across the West End.
On the subject of tax-free shopping, in my capacity as both Chief Executive of New West End Company and Chair of the Association of International Retail, I recently attended both the Conservative and Labour Party conferences, where I had the opportunity to host lunches and briefings comprised of elected politicians, party advisors, BIDs, tourism and hospitality associations and trade bodies. Attendees included John Lewis & Partners, Federation of Small Businesses, Microsoft, Heathrow, UKHospitality, Selfridges and IHG Hotels & Resorts.
Ahead of the Autumn Statement, we submitted a business representation to the Treasury, outlining why the Government should reinstate tax-free shopping without delay. This submission leveraged the evidence already shared with the Treasury ahead of the Parliamentary debate and it was heartening to hear earlier this week that, following all this activity, the Secretary of State for Business and Trade, Kemi Badenoch, now supports a review of the decision to end tax-free shopping.
Following a recent meeting with the Commons Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport, in relation to an inquiry conducted into ‘Promoting Britain Abroad’ which had considered the removal of tax-free shopping, New West End Company has been invited to provide evidence in person to the panel committee in mid-November.
Looking ahead to the King’s Speech and Autumn Budget in November, we will continue to build on this momentum, keeping the need to reinstate tax-free shopping front of mind both in Westminster and in the media.
We wish you all the best as you begin your festive activities, and look forward to celebrating with you across the season.
Dee Corsi participated in a panel discussion at CBRE’s London Real Estate Conference, where she discussed the transformation of Oxford Street with CBRE’s Phil Cann, Executive Director, London Investment; Tom Dancer, Senior Director, Cross Border Retail, Europe; and Andrew White, Development Director, GPE. The talk covered the opportunities the nation’s high street could unlock for both occupiers and investors, as well as the diversification of offering taking place and the programme of public realm enhancements set to revitalise the street.
We continue to actively participate in the wider discourse about Oxford Street’s future, both at events and in the media. Most recently, Dee Corsi contributed opinion editorials to the Evening Standard and Daily Mail, refuting the assertion that Oxford Street was experiencing a demise and instead highlighting the exciting transformation which is taking place behind the hoardings.
Progress on the Oxford Street Programme continues, with initial funding unlocked for Design Stage 2. We are also busy preparing for the launch of two new Governance groups which will be held in November, and which will facilitate a dialogue between experts in the private sector, all private sector funding partners across the street, and Westminster City Council.
On 11 October, we held our annual festive forecast members event at The Soho Hotel. Attendees heard about our planned marketing and operational campaigns, which are set to run throughout the festive period, alongside information about how to get involved at an individual business level.
On Oxford Street, the festive season will kick off on 2 November, when we switch on our iconic festive lights installation, in partnership with children’s charity, Starlight. In tandem, we are bringing back last year’s successful ‘Magic Days’ campaign, which will see brands and stores offering exclusive Christmas deals, gifts and experiences on 2 December, 9 December and 16 December. For the first time, this campaign will also feature on-street entertainment to surprise and delight passersby.
The festivities will continue on Bond Street from 16 November, with the switch on of a dazzling Christmas lights display accompanied by on-street activations, from gospel singers to the iconic Ralph Lauren sponsored Christmas tree in aid of The Royal Marsden Fund.
‘Bond Street Journal’ – our new magazine, dedicated to everything Bond Street – is set to launch in the coming weeks, and will feature a bespoke festive gift guide outlining all the very best luxury gifts and experiences to be found on the street.
We are also excited to announce an invite-only, late night Bond Street Christmas shopping evening, which will take place on Wednesday 6 December and will be delivered in partnership with Ten Lifestyle Group (Ten), the leading concierge service for high net-worth individuals. So far, over twenty five luxury Bond Street boutiques have signed up to be part of this trial concept. If you have not had the opportunity to do so, and would like to register your interest to participate, please contact Sarah Jaconelli, Director of Communications and Campaigns at firstname.lastname@example.org
At the end of October, we shared our annual festive predictions with press, revealing that up to £1.64 billion is set to be spent in the West End over the Christmas trading period. We also revealed that the ongoing cost-of-living crisis continues to squeeze domestic shoppers, meaning that cautious Brits are likely to capitalise on discounts available on key dates like Black Friday. As a result, overall growth is likely to be driven by international visitor spending – underlining the need to reinstate tax-free shopping to ensure that the district remains a globally competitive shopping destination. The Evening Standard broke the news, with a centre-page spread in its business section, as well as a write-up online.
New West End Company and Veolia are partnering this festive season to deliver a sculpture made from waste materials that have been collected and recovered within Westminster to create a beautiful piece of public art. The ‘faerie’ design for the sculpture – picked following an open competition – will not only inspire the general public to take sustainable action within their day-to-day lives, but also enable passersby to tap and donate to our Christmas charity partner this year, Starlight. The sculpture will be exhibited on the North end of South Molton Street, from mid-November through to the end of December.
For the first time, visitors can enjoy a festive ice rink in the district, with ‘Skate West End’ set to transform Hanover Square from 4 November until New Year’s Day. The elliptical ice rink promises to provide a perfect addition of festive fun for those shopping or working in the district, and is suitable for all the family.
Operation West End is back for its second year, bringing a month of action in the lead up to Christmas period which will see a series of significant enhancements to our Security and Cleansing services. Launched for the first time in 2022, Operation West End was a huge success, enabling businesses across the district to be confident that they would be supported across a period of extremely high traffic. For more information on how to get involved, please contact Bruna Silva, Head of Placemaking, at email@example.com or Jamie Conroy, Security and Operations Manager, at Jamie.Conroy@newwestend.com
As part of National Business Crime Week, Dee Corsi, Lucy Mitchell, Chief Operating Officer and Jamie Conroy, Security and Operations Manager, attended the New Police New Met for London business community event, alongside other business leads and London BIDs. The event saw the launch of Operation Retail, the new police response to retail crime where a 999 or 101 call has not been made with the subject on onsite. The operation will leverage CCTV images captured by retail businesses through facial recognition technology to see if the suspect is already known to police. This follows a successful trial of the approach earlier in the year.
The district has also experienced a number of gatherings, protests and marches related to the Israel-Hamas war in recent weeks, and we expect this to continue in the near-term. New West End Company’s Operations team is in close contact with the Metropolitan Police Service, and continues to respond to new intelligence with resource uplifted as required.
TAX-FREE CAMPAIGN UPDATE
We continue to engage in a programme of cross-party briefings in preparation for the forthcoming election, including at both the Conservative and Labour Party Conferences. At both conferences, Dee Corsi attended a number of business receptions, making the case for a vibrant West End and the restoration of tax-free shopping.
At both Party Conferences it was evident that there is cross-party support for our campaign to reinstate tax-free shopping. During his keynote speech at the Labour Conference BusinessLDN reception, Sadiq Khan, applauded our campaign efforts and reiterated the importance of reintroducing tax-free shopping as a growth measure. His view was echoed by Paul Scully MP, Minister for London, who opened the BusinessLDN reception at the Conservative Party conference with similar praise for New West End Company's ongoing campaign.
As part of the preparations for the Autumn Statement, the Government issued a call for business representations, putting forward evidence-based suggestions for changes to, or introduction of new policies. We encouraged our members to use this as yet another avenue to call for the reinstatement of tax-free shopping, and submitted our own New West End Company representation urging the Treasury to scrap the ‘tourist tax’ without delay.
New West End Company will appear before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in a follow-up session to their report "Promoting Britain Abroad, to present latest evidence in mid-November.
Our Q2 2023 figures illustrating the stark impact that the absence of tax-free shopping is having on overseas visitor spend continue to be picked up by press, including in a recent feature by The Sunday Times. We shall be releasing our Q3 figures shortly, which we expect to reveal that the ‘spending gap’ between international footfall and spend has worsened.
We are delighted to have launched our own exclusive cleansing app, allowing members to report any issues directly to our team in real-time. Issues logged will be responded to within 30 minutes of reporting, with a live update tracker enabling the user to be kept up to date with progress and alerted when the job is complete. This new channel will enable members to communicate more effectively with our Cleansing team, ensuring that the district remains up to the high standards workers and visitors expect. Please scan the QR code to the left to download the app.
With the Chinese government now allowing group tours to the U.K. to go ahead, we are committed to ensuring that the district is as attractive as it can be for this valuable demographic. To this end, we are set to launch a bespoke WeChat channel for the West End, which will feature useful information from retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in the district, as well as suggested itineraries for visitors, depending on their interests. With over 1.6 billion active users in China, WeChat is the go-to social media platform, frequently used by Chinese consumers to plan their travel itineraries. Please contact Danny Sullivan, Campaign and Events Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are also in the process of relaunching our West End Club app, an exclusive app for workers in the West End which houses unique offers, experiences and discounts from participating members across the district. The updated app will enable us to gather a greater number of insights about usage patterns and behaviours, which in turn can be shared with our members, so they can better understand how their offers are performing. To discuss how you can reach our audience of more than 18,500 West End workers, or how to give your employees access to this platform, please contact Kate Stephenson, Digital Marketing Manager at Kate.Stephenson@newwestend.com
New West End Company’s Operations Team are holding a drop-in day to allow member businesses to discuss any security concerns they may have directly. Our partners from Safer Business Network will also be in attendance, showcasing their new and improved intelligence-sharing platform, Alert.
The day is informal, and you are not required to stay for the duration of the afternoon. We are encouraging all store managers, security managers and door security staff to attend where possible.
Monday 6 November 2023
1pm - 4:30pm
The Photographers Gallery, 16 – 18 Ramillies Street, London, W1F 7LW
RSVP to Jamie Conroy, Security and Operations Manager, at Jamie.email@example.com
'Meet the Charity': Responsible Business Network
Join Westminster City Council and Grosvenor for a networking afternoon to connect with local charities and help deliver positive local impact. These charities are looking for businesses to partner with in areas such as volunteering, services-in-kind and donations
Wednesday 8 November 2023
3:30pm - 5:30pm
Westminster University, Great Portland Hall, 4 – 12 Little Titchfield Street, W1W 7BY