London’s West End is preparing for a massive influx of tourists in the coming weeks, with the local business group expecting record sales for this year’s festive period.
Representing 600 stores around London’s Oxford St and Regent St precincts — in a retail market that contributes more to the GDP than Wales — the New West End Company is expecting a 1.6 per cent boost year-on-year, reaching £2.34 billion in the six weeks over Christmas.
However, the group has warned that this is expected to be the last significant sales period before being hit hard by the rise in business rates in the new year.
They also hope the boost from Christmas trade would offset the coming losses.
Many shops in the area are poised to see an 80 per cent rise in business rates, eating into profits during two years of uncertainty and transition.
Sales of luxury goods in the West End skyrocketed by 35 per cent in September, with jewellery sales rising by 20 per cent and the average tourist spend reaching £1155.
“We’re looking forward to a buoyant festive season — cheered on by foreign spend and a steady uplift in domestic confidence,” New West End Company chief executive Jace Tyrrell said.
“However, the new year will ring in numerous challenges for our retail heartland and we will need full support from the government on critical issues such as business rates to ensure we can continue to strengthen the UK economy as Article 50 is triggered, and we enter two years of uncertainty as negotiations to leave the EU begin.
“It’s been tourist driven and the indications are that this will continue over the Christmas period.”