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Exclusive: Olympics knocks London retail

The Olympic Games has had a negative impact on London retailers so far, with multiples and indies alike reporting a dip in sales.

Footfall in the West End fell during the first three days of the Olympics although in East London it rose by 7% on the first Saturday of the Games, and 22% on Sunday.

Accordingly shops in the West End had a quiet weekend. Staff at one major department store described it as of the quietest weekends of the year so far, with some staff even being sent home, while those at another luxury store reported that it had been “very quiet”.

Director of communications for the New West End Company Jace Tyrrell said retailers had braced themselves for “very different trading patterns”, but said advice from authorities warning Londoners to avoid key hot spots - including central London - had perhaps gone too far.

“[TFL] did a great job in communicating that message, but now we know it’s quieter than expected I think it needs to change. The new message should be ‘come and enjoy your city’ - particularly to those people working from home or on holiday.”

Even in the East, the rise in visitors appears not to have translated into strong trading figures.

Laurence Davis, managing director of designer indie mini-chain Choice, which has a branch at Westfield Statford, said: “So far the Olympics has had a negative effect on sales, not least because when the car parks were shut a month ago, it stopped the more affluent people - who don’t use public transport - from coming.”

“Since the Games have actually started the centre has been heaving with people going from A to B, but that is all they’re doing - they are not doing any shopping. You’ve gone to an event and then you want to go home: you don’t want to go shopping.”

UK managing director of womenswear brand Basler Paul Lorraine agreed the Games were having a negative effect on trade.

“They are proving to be more of an inconvenience to retailers because of the delivery restrictions that have been put in place,” he told Drapers. “We can only make deliveries between 1am and 6am in the morning, which means our overheads have increased but we aren’t seeing any return on that.”

Basler’s Stratford store had seen a rise in footfall - however the average basket size had reduced, he noted.

Lorraine added: “Some of the regular customers are ringing up asking to hold stock that they will come in to pick up after the Olympics so we are holding stock for customers at the moment because no one wants to brave London.”

It has even been affecting those out of London. One indie owner said: “I don’t think the Olympics are to blame for the decrease in footfall, I think it’s the economy. But the Olympics aren’t helping.”

Paul Bone, manager of contemporary menswear indie Bone and Carter in Brighton, said: “First weekend trade slowed as people are staying at home to watch the sport. However, I think everything with the Jubilee and the Olympics this year has created a feel-good factor and that’s so important in helping us turn a corner in this economy.”

The NWEC spokesman agreed, noting the widespread media interest from far and wide. “We have done lots of interviews with Chinese crews and so on, so medium term I expect we will see a boost.”


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