// London’s West End welcomed 5.1 million visitors since 15 June, but this was still down 73% year-on-year
// New West End Company says the areas is at risk of £5bn loss in sales, putting over 50,000 jobs at risk
// Reforming tax-free shopping could add £1.4bn in retail sales & give an overall benefit of £2.1bn to the UK economy
More than 50,000 jobs could be at risk in London’s West End if tourists and office workers do not return, a partnership representing the area has warned.
The New West End Company, which represents hundreds of retailers and other businesses across Oxford Street, Bond Street, Regent Street and Mayfair, said the district could also lose £5 billion in sales without further government assistance.
The business partnership added that the first full month since the reopening of non-essential retail on June 15, some 5.1 million people visited the West End – although this was still down 73 per cent year-on-year for the same period.
- Retail sales jump in June amid lockdown exit
- Footfall still low in June despite retail lockdown exit (Springboard)
- Retail footfall plunges 62% in June as Brits remain cautious (BRC)
The group has called on the UK Government to provide clarity about whether people should return to their offices, as many retailers rely on the lunchtime trade.
New West End Company’s chief executive Jace Tyrrell said that without consumers having the confidence to travel and visit, the situation was “highly precarious with 50,000 jobs at risk”.
“With no international visitors and mixed messaging surrounding the safety of returning to work and using public transport, we urgently seek clarity of Government messaging for our businesses to survive,” he said.
New West End Company said London was “faring worse” than the rest of the UK, despite footfall increasing in the West End – which is home to many of the capital’s major tourist attractions – by five per cent since lockdown exit.
Figures from retail experts at Springboard show footfall on the UK high street is down 57.2 per cent compared with June 2019.
Meanwhile, footfall in the UK’s regional cities has dropped 70.4 per cent compared to the same period last year, while in central London it was down 76.2 per cent, Springboard insights director Diane Wehrle said.
New West End Company said “long-term” measures were needed to boost business when international visitors eventually return to cities in larger numbers.
It said 70 per cent of all international visitors are from EU member states but are excluded from the tax-free shopping scheme.
By including them in the scheme as part of any future trade deal negotiations with EU countries, a further £1.4 billion could be generated in retail sales annually, the partnership claimed.
“With the UK-EU trade deal deadline also looming, we need to ensure that destinations that rely on international visitors, which have been so hard hit by the pandemic, are accounted for in longer-term recovery plans including levelling up on tax-free shopping with the EU,” Tyrrell said.
The New West End Company said without further government action, and a lack of domestic and international tourists and office workers, there could be a “£5 billion loss in sales, putting over 50,000 jobs at risk”.
with PA Wires