Footfall to the West End of London was up 10.2% year on year last weekend (July 18-19) as Middle Eastern shoppers flocked to the capital to celebrate the end of Ramadan.
This year Ramadan began on June 18 and culminated with the festival of Eid al-Fitr on July 17, two weeks earlier than last year. he influx of Middle Eastern shoppers is expected to last for four or five weeks as they seek to avoid the hot temperatures at home.
Jace Tyrrell, deputy chief executive of New West End Company, which provided the footfall statistics, said retailers in the area observed a “surge” in Middle Eastern shoppers over the weekend.
It will provide a welcome relief for many businesses, who have spoken recently of challenging trading conditions in the West End, caused by the strong pound.
Tyrrell said the average spend per transaction in the post-Ramadan period is likely to be higher this year, as it has been on an upward trajectory for the past 10 years.
According to tax-free shopping operator Global Blue, in June Middle Eastern spend in the UK was up 28% year on year, with an average per transaction of £1,044. Figures for July are not yet available.
Luxury retailers such as Selfridges, Harrods and Harvey Nichols were geared up for the rise in Middle Eastern shoppers, but Tyrrell pointed out that London is also attractive to bargain hunters in the weeks following Ramadan. “Luxury does very well – particularly jewellery, handbags and designerwear – but so do brands such as Boots for beauty and cosmetics.”
He said the proposals to ease Sunday trading hours would benefit retailers in the West End, as many Middle Eastern shoppers prefer to shop in the evenings.
Dave Hobday, UK managing director for payment service firm Worldpay, warned retailers not to miss out on the opportunity the end of Ramadan brings.
“Eid has become a critical moment in the UK retail calendar, with turnover as high as Christmas for some stores,” he said.
“With so much competition, it’s not enough to just deliver great service and brilliant products. High-end retailers and boutiques are employing multilingual staff and enabling shoppers to pay in their own currency, and these initiatives will maximise the Eid opportunity to boost retail growth.”