London's West End continues to prosper as store openings speed up
London’s West End has continued to see major investment from brands this year despite the volatile UK economy and shaky footfall in the Greater London area generally.
The body that represents retailers in the West End, the New West End Company, said this week that 65 new stores have opened since January, which is up from 52 for the whole of 2016. And this fast pace is likely to continue as the opening of new transport links in the next few years means the West End should see annual turnover reaching £1 billion by 2020.
It’s an interesting number given that a recent report from Savills showed a lower number of luxury openings this year as luxe brands looked carefully at their costs. It seems that more mass and middle-market labels are setting foot in the West End.
The most recent opening, happened only last week with Canada Goose debuting on Regent Street, with Asics, Arket and Sandro also having opened there while Poland’s Reserved opened around the corner on Oxford Street. Delvaux has opened on New Bond Street and nearby Soho has seen a number of smaller quirky brands taking physical store space, including Officine Générale and Fiorucci.
Interestingly, tech giant Microsoft has also chosen to open its first ever European store at Oxford Circus, which will put it into direct competition with rival Apple nearby.
NWEC said the area "has defied uncertainty over Brexit and sustained a robust retail and property market this year, buoyed by an increase in international spend.”
The body is also predicting till receipts to rise 1.5% to £2.61 billion in the six-week Christmas period. Given that inflation is running ahead of that figure, it may not look so good, but in the current UK retail environment, it would be a strong end to the year.
The Christmas takings will be driven by tourists and NWEC said that of the 200 million visits to London every year, 25% are international tourists, spending £3.5 billion annually. Sales to non-EU tourists rose 28% in the high season between July and August with sales to Chinese tourists rising 59% over the same period.
With the new £16 billion Crossrail/Elizabeth Line development next year, the West End should get an extra 60 million additional visitors and the proposed plans to pedestrianise a huge chunk of Oxford Street should add to this.
NWEC chief executive Jace Tyrrell said: “While many retailers are concerned about the economic future, the West End is in the strongest position to grow as the UK leaves the EU.
"With spending by international shoppers increasing and the Elizabeth Line delivering millions of new visitors and an extra £1 billion in turnover each year, the West End remains the place for retail investment.”
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