After a turbulent year and a half – to say the least – cities across the UK are starting to look beyond the pandemic and are embarking on the immense journey to regain lost business and return to pre-pandemic levels.
With this in mind, and as the summer months draw to a close, the West End is perhaps facing its most significant autumn period to date. It has never been more important for our district to showcase its exceptional arts, culture, retail and hospitality credentials as we look to encourage Londoners and UK visitors back to our high streets and workplaces and, ultimately, build back better.
The Eclectic West End
London’s West End is one of the most diverse, inspiring and sustainable places to visit and do business. Thanks to unique elements such as our unrivalled theatre district, flagship stores and exceptional restaurants, the West End remains one of the top global destinations for not only discerning shoppers, but also for judicious diners, office workers and investors.
New West End Company has been working closely with its partners at the Mayor’s Office, TfL, London and Partners, Westminster City Council and VisitBritain on a number of autumn campaigns to entice our customers back to our world-renowned stores, restaurants and galleries.
From this week, our customers can enjoy a six-week celebration of arts and culture, with some of Bond Street and Mayfair’s most distinguished luxury stores transforming our district into an open submission art show in celebration of the Royal Academy of Arts’ 253rd Summer Exhibition. The Summer Exhibition is the world’s largest open submission contemporary art show and this year explores the theme of ‘Reclaiming Magic’. The majority of works will be for sale, offering visitors an opportunity to purchase original work whilst supporting students of the Royal Academy.
Meanwhile, from the 15th of September, we will be encouraging our valued customers to explore how Oxford Street’s retailers are shaking up the way we shop with our first sustainability campaign; Beyond Now. Visitors and shoppers will be invited to learn more about how our Oxford Street businesses are providing more sustainable solutions through innovative in-store services, activations and product ranges. With an increasing number of shoppers basing their purchasing decisions on the sustainability credentials of brands, we are proud to be showcasing best practice here within London’s West End.
We also hope our returning colleagues and customers will take advantage of the West End’s top offers this autumn. Our latest survey showed that 91% wish to return to the office in some capacity, and those that work in the West End can look forward to our renowned loyalty programme -The West End Club – which offers exclusive in-person perks; everything from complimentary cocktails and delicious dining offers, to discounts from your favourite fashion brands.
Westminster City Council’s Oxford Street District transformation is underway and our district is already benefiting from greener streets and pedestrian priority thanks to wider pavements. Improving our public realm and the wider built environment is integral to the West End’s recovery, and over the past year we have seen our streets and buildings alike being converted to cater to our changing customer needs. Regent Street, for example, has reduced its traffic down to two lanes and increased green on-street spaces, Hanover Square has nearly completed its new gardens, and the upcoming Elizabeth Line has formed two new gateways to the district at Tottenham Court Road and Bond Street, improving both public realm and the consumer and commuter experience from the moment they enter the district.
West End retailers are also investing heavily in their physical in-store experiences to attract our customers back in new and innovative ways. Whether that is through the creation of event spaces for podcast and DJ sets such as Sports Direct on Oxford Street, or digital applications that enhance the shopping experience – as is the case in Browns on Brook Street – enhancing the physical experience of our district will be integral to the rebuilding of the West End.
Resilient and Stronger than Before
Looking back at our recovery to date, I have been awestruck by the resilience of both the 600 businesses that call the West End home and the one in ten Londoner’s that work here. Businesses, residents, public agencies and policymakers have worked together tirelessly across our district in a way I’ve never seen before, and I hope this collaboration will continue well beyond the pandemic.
There has been much commentary about the uncertain future of the West End, especially in relation to the setbacks faced by the retail and office sectors, but we see this change as a positive opportunity to evolve; We are seizing this moment by bringing together the best in talent, experiences and products to create a stronger West End for the Capital, the Country – and rest of the world – to enjoy.