As Olympic fever grips the nation, fashion retailers with stores in London have told Drapers that footfall has been down as the public at large have stayed away from central London to avoid the expected crowds and predicted transport chaos.
I suppose it is no real surprise to anyone that those who are visiting London are doing so to watch the Games and not to shop. Even retailers with stores in Westfield Stratford have reported an exceptionally quiet few days.
Bearing this in mind, I was a little surprised to learn of the decision to close Westfield Stratford shopping centre to members of the public who do not have Olympic tickets this weekend.
One retailer told me this week that last Saturday was probably the quietest so far seen at their Westfield Stratford branch since opening in September.
And this was on a day when the centre wasn’t closed to the general public.
I can only begin to imagine what the footfall will be like this Saturday when the shopping centre will only be accessible to accredited workers, members of the public with, or collecting, a Games ticket or using hospitality venues.
LOCOG has said it has made this move because it anticipates that this Friday and Saturday will be the busiest days of the Games.
“Because of the huge number of people coming to the Park on those days at certain times we have to restrict general public access to Westfield Stratford City and we are encouraging people to avoid travelling to Stratford unless they have a ticket,” said LOCOG chief executive Paul Deighton.
Now I could be very much mistaken but I doubt that anyone without a ticket would be planning to travel to Stratford anyway. Surely the footfall, or lack of it, seen by retailers so far shows that people are doing everything they can to avoid potentially busy areas.
I am not saying LOCOG were wrong to make this decision, I just can’t help wondering if it is somewhat unnecessary in light of what we have seen so far.
Thus far the predicted boost in retail trade as a result of the Olympics hasn’t materialised and while it probably won’t – shutting the shopping centre closest to the Olympic Park won’t exactly do anything to help those retailers who are failing to win gold at the moment.
Ruth Faulkner, reporter, Drapers