Following a busy summer trading period, and a pause in the newsletter over August, there is a significant amount of activity to share with you.
September update from New West End Company
Oxford Street has seen a flurry of new openings in recent weeks, as appetite to secure any remaining vacant units ramps up. I would like to welcome all our new additions to the street – including Under Armour, Steve Madden and Footasylum, as well as new stores from Reserved and Pandora - and look forward to seeing its continued reinvention as the home of immersive retail, leisure and cultural attractions. The Oxford Street of tomorrow is being created by visionary businesses, property owners and investors that recognise the opportunities the nation’s high street can unlock.
Critically, these businesses are investing in the street at a significant inflection point in its transformation journey. Following a public consultation phase across the month of August, the New West End Company has formally signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Westminster City Council, which sets out the ambition to joint fund the Oxford Street Programme.
Of course, like high streets across the U.K., Oxford Street faces a challenge the likes of which we have not seen in decades. Businesses are rapidly evolving to respond to long-term changes to the retail industry - including seismic shifts to consumer expectations of physical retail - whilst simultaneously grappling with anti-social behaviour and crime exacerbated by the national cost-of-living crisis.
Here in the West End, we are fortunate to have a close working relationship with the Metropolitan Police Service, Westminster City Council and all of our members, which stands us in good stead when faced with this level of adversity. Working in partnership, and leveraging shared intelligence, we are able to proactively plan and uplift resource when necessary to mitigate against any disruption in the district.
A positive Oxford Street narrative is key to driving future inward investment and ensuring that the district reaches its historic £10 billion turnover target by 2025, which it is currently on track to do. That’s why we have ensured that the New West End Company has a voice in the conversation on behalf of all of our members, with opinion editorials published in City AM and the Evening Standard, commentary in the Financial Times, and broadcast interviews with ITV London and BBC London telling the story of the radical reimagining going on behind the hoardings.
We also continue to advocate on behalf of our members on other critical issues such as tax-free shopping, keeping up media pressure with opinion pieces in the likes of the Evening Standard, as well as the release of proprietary data from the New West End Company and our members. Our Q2 2023 data release, which revealed a worsening gap between international visitor footfall and spend, was widely covered in the press, including leading the businesses section in The Times, both online and in print.
At the start of September, we also reached a milestone in our campaign to restore tax-free shopping with a Parliamentary debate on the issue. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown for securing the debate, and for his continuous support of our campaign in Westminster. I would also like to thank you, our members, for keeping up pressure on the Treasury through the submission of evidence on the impact of losing tax-free shopping, either directly or through the New West End Company’s own, aggregated data submission.
This week, the Treasury issued guidance for submitting business representations ahead of the Autumn Statement. A representation to Autumn Statement is a written submission commenting on government policy. We would encourage members to engage with this as another avenue to propose evidence-based changes to the existing policy on tax-free shopping. Businesses can submit representations via a dedicated portal, which is open until 13 October.
I had pleasure of speaking at the Business LDN Annual BIDS conference at the start of September, joining Cllr Geoff Barraclough, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Westminster City Council, amongst others across the public and private sector to discuss the role of London BIDs in shaping a thriving London. We shared a productive conversation about the need to maintain a dynamic and competitive economic environment in the West End, with a joint vision to make it the most diverse, sustainable and inspiring place to visit and do business.
Planning for the busy festive trading period is well underway: Christmas forecasts for footfall and spend are being prepared by our Insights team, our iconic street-wide light displays are being installed under the cover of darkness by our Infrastructure team, and preparations are being made for our destination marketing campaign and dedicated security and cleansing uplifts, in partnership with member businesses and the Metropolitan Police Service.
We look forward to welcoming you to our annual Christmas forecast session, scheduled for 11 October, as well as the imminent announcement of a special charity partnership to coincide with our festive activity.
TAX-FREE CAMPAIGN UPDATE
August and September have been particularly busy months in our campaign to reinstate tax-free shopping, as we worked to keep up a steady drumbeat of coverage in the lead up to the Parliamentary debate on the issue at the start of September.
In August, we released new Q2 2023 figures which revealed the stark impact that the absence of tax-free shopping is having on overseas visitor spend. Our data indicates that, despite tourist numbers continuing to recover, there is a concerning ‘spending gap’ as they divert spend to Continental Europe. Whilst it is reassuring that growing numbers underline the continued appeal of the capital, this widening gap between footfall and spend indicates that awareness of a lack of tax-free shopping is increasing amongst international visitors. Our findings were widely picked up in the press, including in The Times, The Telegraph and the Evening Standard.
Our thanks also to members who engaged with our short survey on how the ‘tourist tax’ is impacting the businesses they work for, which we released to coincide with the long-awaited Parliamentary debate. Despite the Treasury’s continued assertion that they are not seeing credible behaviour change as a result of the loss of tax-free shopping, nine in ten West End businesses revealed that it has been more damaging to them than the cost-of-living crisis or inflation. The majority of members that we surveyed also revealed that they are reviewing U.K. investment and staffing requirements as a result. This research had an international reach, and was picked up by the Daily Mail, Bloomberg, and WWD.
Following the Westminster debate, we are continuing our media and lobbying campaigns, ensuring we keep up momentum around key moments such as the Party conferences in October and the Autumn budget in late November.
Guidance on how to structure and submit representations to the Treasury, ahead of the Autumn Statement, is now available. This provides another avenue to put forward a clear, evidence-based argument for changes to the current policy around tax-free shopping. We would strongly advise members to take advantage of this opportunity to convey the damaging impact that losing tax-free shopping is having on their business.
Following the formal signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the New West End Company and Westminster City Council, Design Stage 2 has begun, with construction work expected to begin in Autumn 2024.
Oxford Street was further boosted in September by the launch of 4G and 5G across West End underground stations. High speed mobile coverage is now available in ticket halls, on escalators and on platforms for passengers using the Central line between Oxford Circus and Tottenham Court Road. Coverage has also been introduced to Northern Line platforms at Tottenham Court Road. This additional coverage is a fantastic enhancement of the visitor experience the West End, keeping visitors connected as they travel to the district to enjoy the world-class retail, leisure and hospitality on offer.
Our Director of Communications, Sarah Jaconelli, spoke at the London Real Estate Forum, on a roundtable titled the ‘Power of Partnership’ which explored the integral role that partnership plays in the delivery of ambitious developments and enhancements to the built environment, including the likes of the Oxford Street Programme.
A SUSTAINABLE DISTRICT
On 28 September, we hosted a special webinar in partnership with Westminster City Council and Veolia, sharing guidance with members on how to best implement the Government’s upcoming recycling legislation to reduce waste production and pollution which will come into effect later this year.
The session was hosted by Dee Corsi, Chief Executive, New West End Company. We would like to thank Jack Barclay, Senior Policy Adviser Consistent Collections, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA); James Mason, Sustainable Development Manager, Westminster Veolia; Eve Bellers, Sustainability Manager, Grosvenor Property UK, all of whom took the time to share invaluable guidance with our members.
The session provided invaluable guidance on tangible actions that businesses and individuals can take to reduce their waste impact:
Actions you can take at an organisational level:
- You can sign up to Westminster’s Sustainable City Charter which is a Westminster-wide business pledge to help reduce your environmental impact and carbon footprint of your operations.
- If you’re unsure how to start your sustainability journey, Westminster City Council can provide you with detailed support and guidance through the Climate Essentials programme for small to medium sized enterprises within Westminster. Click here for more information.
Actions you can take at sector level:
- Food waste has a huge carbon impact. Redistributing surplus edible foods through platforms such as Olio, Too Good To Go, or the Felix Project not only helps you reduce your food waste but also provide food at a low cost for those who suffer from food insecurity within Westminster.
- There are a growing number of return and rental schemes being provided by retailers. This not only increases accessibility of items for those who may be struggling with the cost-of-living crisis but also contributes to our circular economy agenda.
Actions anyone can take:
- After you have exhausted all options to reduce and reuse within your operations, the last thing is to make sure you are recycling as much of your waste as possible to send products and materials back into the production cycle. You can do this by regularly providing awareness and training days for your colleagues and appointing recycling champions across teams to encourage engagement and a culture of environmental action across your organisation
Click on the image above to watch a recording of the session.
Finally, we are delighted to share the news that the New West End Company is a Living Wage Accredited Employer. Acknowledgement of our commitment to paying employees and contractors a fair and ethical wage is just a small component of our wider commitment to deliver a long-term social sustainability programme across the district, which ensures that it is a welcoming and inclusive space for all.
Our Operations team has been working in close partnership with the Metropolitan Police Service, Safer Business Network and member businesses to address organised crime groups operating across the district.
Our collaboration has yielded significant results in recent weeks, including the identification of over 100 offenders and the arrest of a prominent figure within the ‘Spice Girls’ organised crime group. The New West End Company and Safer Business Network played a pivotal role in gathering evidence and supporting the police and, as a result, the offender has been sentenced to two years and six months in prison.
Over the summer, Oxford Street was targeted by a social media campaign to encourage anti-social behaviour and shoplifting. Intelligence sharing between member businesses, the New West End Company and the Metropolitan Police Service meant that we were able to jointly implement an uplift in security supported by a robust policing plan. As a result of this forward planning, the disruption was successfully mitigated and the day passed with limited impact on businesses and members of the public. We are now liaising closely with the Metropolitan Police Service and member businesses to create a long-term plan to deal with any future social media coordinated incidents across the district.
Our Operations team has also been hard at work to ensure that visitors are able to safely access and enjoy all that the district has to offer, including one-off, unique events such as the Freddie Mercury exhibition at Sotheby’s, the pop-up launch of international popstar Kylie’s latest album ‘Tension’, or the launch event for Under Armour, which saw proud Londoner and Arsenal player Eddie Nketiah open the doors to its new ‘brand house’ on Oxford Street.
This month, we were inspired by Burberry’s innovative take-over of Bond Street station. To coincide with London Fashion Week, Burberry teamed up with Transport for London to launch a unique collaboration and transform Bond Street – the home of the British fashion retailer’s recently redeveloped flagship store – into Burberry Street. Signage on street and at platform level was transformed with Burberry’s new brand colour, knight blue. The activation ran from 15 – 19 September and was complemented by the display of Burberry flags down the length of Bond Street.
Visitors to Oxford Street seem delighted with the captivating installation of a 128 ft wide and 62 ft blue FRAKTA bag, which signposts IKEA’s upcoming arrival at its iconic Oxford Street location in Autumn 2024. Once complete, the new development will feature retail and office space, with IKEA also promising to use the central London location as a testbed for new innovations and store formats.
ROAD CLOSURES AND INSTALLATIONS
We would like to make members aware of upcoming overnight road closures. Roads will be closed to allow for the installation of this year's Christmas Lights across our district. Works will be undertaken between the hours of 10pm – 5am.
For general enquiries about these closures, please contact Richard Lancaster on 07494503591. If you require out of hours access between 10pm - 5am for deliveries, please contact our contractor Field & Lawn on 01179801120 who will be able to advise on the feasibility of this.
Dates of closures in October include:
- Sunday 1 to Thursday 5 October – Oxford Circus to Tottenham Court Road
- Sunday 8 to Monday 9 October – Orchard Street to Marble Arch
NEW/OLD BOND STREET
- Tuesday 10 to Thursday 12 and Sunday 15 to Monday 16 October - New Bond Street
- Tuesday 17 to Wednesday 18 October - Old Bond Street
- Tuesday 10 to Thursday 12 October - Regent Street North
- Sunday 15 to Thursday 19 and Sunday 22 to Wednesday 25 October - Oxford Circus to Piccadilly