West End Maintains Resilience Over Festive Period, But Domestic Pressures Continue To Grow

  • New West End Company data shows that footfall in the West End increased 3% in November and December, compared to the same period in 2022
  • Lower domestic spending acted as a drag on topline growth, underlining the importance of attracting international spend
  • Higher visitor numbers do not match spend, which dropped 1% year-on-year

London, 23 January 2024 - New data from New West End Company has revealed a resilient festive performance from the district, even as national economic pressures dampened domestic consumer spending. Nonetheless, increases in footfall – as festive visitors flocked to experience all the West End has to offer – were not matched by corresponding increases in spending.

Across the festive period, footfall grew by 3% year-on-year, whilst spend decreased marginally by 1%. Lower than expected domestic spend acted as the primary drag on topline growth; with Brits continuing to grapple with high inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, domestic spend declined by 8% year-on-year across November and December. In comparison, international spend growth across the period was up 7%.

These domestic pressures saw many Brits hold back across November, with a notable peak in domestic shopping on Black Friday weekend, as savvy spenders sought out deals across the district. Despite this, overall domestic spending in November dropped by 14%. International spending in November was largely unchanged year-on-year, seeing just a 1% increase, and footfall as a whole was also in line with 2022 figures.

December was more buoyant, with visitors to the district increasing by 5% year-on-year, highlighting the enduring appeal of the West End at Christmastime. However, overall spend increased by just 2% year-on-year. This was driven by a 4% fall in domestic spend, which countered international spending growth of 13%.

These dynamics between domestic and international spending reflect predictions from New West End Company in early November. As forecast, domestic spending peaked just prior to Christmas Day on 22nd December, as last-minute shoppers made it the busiest day of the entire year. Meanwhile, Boxing Day represented the highest level of international spend for the year, 12% higher than 2022.

Dee Corsi, Chief Executive of New West End Company said:  “It is clear that the West End has lost none of its appeal as an iconic festive destination. Despite this, spend growth has slowed, with the marked decrease in domestic spending a particular cause for concern. It is not only domestic consumers feeling the squeeze either – in 2024 retail and hospitality businesses must account for a costly end to business rates relief, and the imminent increase to the national living wage.

“Against that backdrop, the Government must capitalise on any opportunity to inject growth into the national economy. International visitors are an undeniable driver of such growth, and it is imperative that they are incentivised to spend in the U.K. Reintroducing tax-free shopping offers the unique opportunity to boost spend from existing tourists, and simultaneously create a new visitor economy of 450 million E.U. residents who could shop tax-free in the U.K. for the first time.

“This would have a marked positive impact on the entire tourist ecosystem across the U.K., boosting inbound flights to regional airports, and supporting the retail and hospitality sectors nationally. Crucially, the infrastructure to support this EU visitor economy already exists and it is time we properly leveraged it. We would urge the Government to grab the opportunity with both hands and reinstate tax-free shopping without delay.”