The West End had a welcome boost over the Black Friday weekend with a 1 percent increase in shoppers on 2016 figures. Visitors returned in their droves despite false reports of an incident at Oxford Circus tube station on Friday afternoon.
Ahead of the police reports on Friday, footfall throughout the West End was up 4.5 percent on the same time last year, indicating that the international shopping district was heading for a record-breaking Black Friday weekend. Shoppers looking to make the most of the West End’s shops, restaurants and Christmas lights kept coming across the weekend, with several department stores reporting their busiest Saturdays this year.
The numbers point to the continued resilience of the West End in what has been a challenging trading year, with the London district outperforming national high streets on both Saturday and Sunday. Across the country, the number of visitors to high streets was down 2.5 percent. The 1 percent increase is also particularly encouraging given the -12 percent figure reported at the end of Friday, further reinforcing the attraction of the West End for shoppers looking to kick-start their Christmas shopping.
Jace Tyrrell, Chief Executive at New West End Company, which represents 600 businesses in London’s West End, including Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street, said: “It was a relief that the activity at Oxford Circus on Friday was a false alarm with no serious injuries. Whilst it did impact numbers on Friday evening, the resilience of the West End has really shone through as footfall was recorded at over one million during the weekend. Our shoppers, both domestic and international, continue to enjoy the fantastic experience the West End has to offer as one of the world’s leading retail and leisure destinations.”
New West End Company is responding to the learnings of Friday evening and exploring ways in which the district can respond to such events in the future.
Tyrrell continued: “Keeping visitors safe is our upmost priority and the events of Friday afternoon demonstrate how quickly and efficiently the police respond to protect the public and staff.
“In the age of social media, information travels incredibly quickly and not always accurately, so we should explore alternative ways of communicating with the public during such incidents. We can look to other international cities for inspiration such as Tokyo, which uses a tannoy system to communicate with the public. We are in conversations with the Borough Commander and Deputy Mayor for Policing to review our planning, systems and responses to ensure lessons are learnt.”
Retailers in London’s West End continue to expect a strong Christmas period, with till receipts in the six weeks running up to Christmas forecast to rise by 1.5 percent to £2.61 billion.