As retail reopens in England and Wales, the New West End Company, which represents London’s West End shops and hospitality venues, is calling on the government to offer urgent target support to help businesses recover from what it calls the “devastating impact of successive lockdowns”.
New West End Company, which represents 600 businesses across Oxford Street, Regent Street, Bond Street and Mayfair, expects around 40 percent of the West End’s usual April footfall to return.
While retailers look to build back trade when they reopen this week, New West End Company believes that the sector still needs support, and is urging the government to consider extending Sunday trading hours to boost economic recovery in Britain’s two International Centres of the West End and Knightsbridge.
Sir Peter Rogers, chairman of New West End Company, and Hugh Seaborn, chairman of the Brompton Road Partnership have written to the Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, asking for Sunday trading hours to be extended. A measure that the New West End Company believes could generate more than 290 million pounds a year in net sales to the UK economy and support an estimated 2,000 future jobs.
The additional income would also partly offset the loss of an estimated 900 million pounds of annual sales in the International Centres caused by ending tax-free shopping, while the additional opening hours would also help to accommodate some of the estimated 60 million new visitors expected in the West End when the Elizabeth Line opens in 2022.
New West End Company requests for Sunday trading hours to be extended
Commenting on the support required, Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company said in a statement: “With the vaccination programme well underway and restrictions lifting across the country, we are well set to welcome shoppers back today to safely enjoy all the West End has to offer, I’m confident that the West End will continue to thrive as a world-leading retail and leisure destination and key driver of the UK economy.
“Since the start of the pandemic, retailers have lost 220 trading days. While we’re optimistic that these businesses will be able to recover with significant inward investment already pouring into the district, they need targeted support.”
Tyrell, added: “This is why we have written to the government to ask for an extension of Sunday trading hours in Britain’s two international centres - London’s West End and Knightsbridge.
“As we reopen, we need to recognise that the ways in which people want to shop has changed. Greater flexibility on Sundays is vital to attract customers back into the capital, giving them the opportunity to spend what they want, when they want, all the while boosting the wider economy and crucially protecting jobs.”
To encourage shoppers back to the West End, the district has added extensive safety measures to ensure the public’s safety including clean teams, hand sanitisation and washing points, as well as widespread signage and queuing aids, smart payments, extra bike stations and walking distance guides, as well as widened pavements and open-air seating.
The New West End Company has also developed a series of campaigns to entice shoppers back to the district. This includes a blossom tree installation on Bond Street and a partnership with Spotify on Oxford Street to enhance the shopping experience by curating an exclusive playlist set to celebrate the vibrant area.
Images: courtesy of New West End Company by Matt Crossick, PA Wire