- New West End Company forecasts up to £1.64 billion is set to be spent in the West End over the Christmas trading period.
- Returning international visitors will provide a significant boost to overall spend year-on-year, as domestic shoppers remain cautious.
- Against this backdrop, calls for the Government to reintroduce tax-free shopping and safeguard capital’s international appeal continue.
Festive Spending Set to Reach £1.64bn in Boost for London’s West End
West End retailers can expect a marginal boost as they head into the festive period, with new figures forecasting higher consumer spending compared to 2022. However, with the cost-of-living crisis still acting as a squeeze on domestic spending, it is returning international visitors who are driving overall growth in spend this Christmas period.
The latest figures from New West End Company, which represents 600 retailers, restaurants, hotels and property owners across the West End, including Oxford Street, Regent Street, Bond Street and Mayfair, reveal that sales this peak season could hit £1.64 billion across November and December, compared with £1.55 billion in 2022.
Despite topline growth, the continued impact of the cost-of-living crisis and high inflation will see Brits take a cautious approach to Christmas once again, with the pattern of domestic spending largely in line with 2022. As a result, West End retailers can expect to see their first spike in domestic spend on Black Friday, when savvy shoppers seek out the plethora of deals and discounts available across the district.
Domestic spending will reach its crescendo on 23 December. Falling on a Saturday, it is an attractive date for families looking to make the most of the final weekend before Christmas; last minute purchases can be made against the backdrop of unique festive experiences, from the dazzling lights displays and on-street entertainment, to immersive retail and, for the first time, even a festive ice rink nestled within Hanover Square.
Boxing Day in the West End is set to be the first day where international spend is greater than domestic. This suggests that the festive shopping period is elongated for international visitors, as they look to experience all that the West End has to offer beyond Christmas Day – a positive for businesses looking to maximise sales during what is a critical trading period.
Dee Corsi, Chief Executive of New West End Company said: “For many, time spent in the West End is what the festive season is all about. More than just shopping, the district offers the opportunity to make memories and create your own, unique festive experiences with family, friends and loved ones. And it is this reputation that has enabled the West End to remain resilient, despite the ongoing cost-of-living crisis which is squeezing domestic spending and dampening consumer confidence elsewhere in the U.K.
“However, we cannot afford to ignore that it is international visitors driving our recovery this winter. To this end, we are calling on the Government to conduct an independent evaluation of the impact of tax-free shopping. Christmas is a critical trading period for businesses both in the West End and across the U.K., and the reinstatement of tax-free shopping is a simple measure that would put us back on an equal footing with other festive destinations in Continental Europe.”
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, commented: “London is the world’s best destination for tourists and shoppers, especially during the festive period, and it’s great to see London roaring back with the increasing number of returning international tourists spending in the capital. But to keep international visitors coming back and support London’s businesses, we urgently need the Government to reinstate a VAT-free shopping scheme. This would not only help our retailers but also boost other sectors still struggling from the effects of the pandemic and the continuing cost-of-living crisis.”
Cllr Geoff Barraclough, Westminster City Council’s Cabinet Member for Place Shaping and Economic Development, added: “The prospect of increasing spending in the West End this Christmas is great news as the retail and leisure trade hits what is always a make-or-break period.
“It’s clear that the buzz is back with international visitors returning in larger numbers and big names like HMV returning to Oxford Street. Whether you are coming from abroad or the U.K., the West End is still an unbeatable destination for shopping, eating and going out.
“Working with our partners at New West End Company, we are going to build on this for an even stronger 2024 as we prepare to start work on the £90m overhaul of Oxford Street.”
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