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West End retailers look to domestic shoppers for Christmas cheer

Retailers in London’s West End are gearing up for their best Christmas since before the financial crisis in 2008, forecasting a “solid” spend of £2.3bn over the six-week festive period.

Buoyed by increasing confidence in the UK and a new wave of international shoppers, stores on Oxford Street, Regent Street, Bond Street and the surrounding areas are expected to hit an average of £51.1m sales each day during the festive season, according to the New West End Company’s second annual Christmas Tracker report.

Sue West, operations director at Selfridges, said: “The last two years were driven by international consumers. What we’re seeing now is a lot more confidence from local consumers – things are evening out.”

“There’s a little bit of feel-good factor back this Christmas,” said David Walker-Smith, managing director of Fenwick Bond Street. “It’s welcome, given that the summer was slightly challenging in central London with Middle Eastern and Chinese traveller numbers down.”

David Barford, regional selling director at John Lewis, said: “Conditions in the market remain challenging, so while we’re looking forward to the festive trading period and expecting to do well, we go into Christmas with this in mind. Consumer confidence is more upbeat than it has been previously.”

Footfall for the period is anticipated to be 1.5% lower than in 2014, when it fell by 3.2% due to the rise of online shopping combined with a drop in spending from Russia, slower growth in Chinese and European sales and a mixed picture in terms of visitors from the Middle East.

Jace Tyrell, deputy chief executive of New West End Company, noted the growing strength of the dollar against sterling, which has brought an increased number of US shoppers to London, resulting in a 17% year-on-year increase in US spend.

He also suggested that a drop in footfall will be more than offset by shoppers browsing online yet completing their final purchase in stores, where they often spend more.

Susan Reid, sales director of the North region and Oxford Street at Debenhams, agreed: “We’re seeing two types of customer: one that wants the convenience of buying online and delivery to their home, office or a store, and another who wants to research online but then come into store to see the look and feel of the product and try it on.”

She said the in-store experience will be particularly important on Black Friday (November 27), which is expected to be the biggest shopping day of the year for Debenhams.

West End footfall was up 5% on Black Friday last year, with a total of 1.1 million shoppers visiting the area, according to research from New West End Company and research firm Springboard. It is expected to rise even further this year as publicity around the promotional shopping day increases.  

On October 27, New West End Company launched a chip-and-pin gift card for Oxford Street, which can be preloaded with between £10 and £5,000.

It has also announced that Australian pop star Kyle Minogue will switch on the Oxford Street Christmas lights on Sunday November 1 from outside the Pandora store at Park House.

 

Readers' comments (1)

  • The economy is slowing down, so retailers have to be realistic wherever they are. Christmas isn't what it used to be and many retailers are cutting further back on forward orders for AW15.

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