West End Christmas shoppers are set to spend £1.5 billion this year – a quarter (24%) up from last year but still almost a third (28%) down on pre-Covid figures.
Retailers are facing a tough festive trading period amidst the rising cost of living and a continued absence of high-spending international travellers, despite it being the first restriction-free Christmas in three years.
The latest figures from New West End Company – which represents 600 retail, restaurant, hotel and property owners across Bond Street, Oxford Street, Regent Street and Mayfair – forecast that sales this peak season will hit £1.5 billion, making up a quarter of all sales across the year.
Footfall to remain at 2019 levels
Footfall figures for the district are also due to remain at 83% of those in 2019.
With footfall expected to remain consistent with last month’s figures, it is suggested that many shoppers are looking to spread their Christmas shopping across the eight week trading period in order to more easily budget.
Dee Corsi, Interim Chief Executive of New West End Company said: “We know that this year’s festive season may be particularly challenging with the continued cost of living increases, and we’re expecting some families to be more cautious with how they spend. However, the West End is much more than shopping and there are plenty of festive experiences – such as our world-renowned lights – which we encourage families to visit and enjoy for free.”
Review of Sunday trading hours needed
“Whilst I’m heartened to see the West End’s recovery continue to grow this winter, for us to succeed in the long-term we need to ensure that the nation’s high street and the wider country remains globally competitive. There are a number of simple routes to achieving this that the Government is overlooking, or simply ignoring. Without an independent assessment of tax-free shopping and a review of Sunday trading hours in London’s International Centres, we risk putting London and the UK at a severe global disadvantage.”
NWEC, along with a growing number of retailers, is calling on the Treasury to reconsider its decision to reverse plans to reintroduce VAT free shopping for international visitors.
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Many West End businesses are facing another uncertain winter as they navigate the fallout from the pandemic and the cost of living crisis which is also impacting the cost of doing business. Whilst I’m delighted we can now welcome everyone back to the West End, it is clear more needs to be done to ensure this vital part of the London economy returns to full strength after three challenging years.
“My campaign, ‘Let’s Do London’, the biggest international tourism campaign the city has ever seen, is bringing visitors back to our city.
“The government must do all it can to support businesses and this should start with the reintroduction of tax free shopping for tourists, making London and the UK a more attractive place for international tourists to visit, bringing in far more money to the Treasury than it costs.”