Report warns West End retailers not to rely on tourism

Tuesday, 04 March 2014
Business may be booming in London's West End, but a new report warns retailers not to get complacent, relying mostly on tourism to boost sales. Titled 'London's West End: Review and Outlook', Jones Lang Salle commissioned New West End Company - the retail body that looks after Bond Street and the major west end shopping locales - and Heart of London Business Alliance to find the key challenges in retail trading. Despite the success and healthy figures, with trading up 5.7 percent on the previous year, VAT-free international sales up 22 percent on the previous year, the number of transaction saw a growth of 13 percent.

China continued to lead the high-spending visitor pack which also includes Middle-Eastern and South East Asian high-spenders. However, the report urged caution and noted that the West End could become a victim of its own success by becoming over-reliant on its international visitors, whose influence could be affected by future fluctuating currency trends.

Lack of quality and affordable retail space

The report also tracked an “unprecedented” demand for retail and leisure space, set to continue into 2014. However, a threat lies in a lack of quality retail space for occupiers with needs above 75,000 square foot in the core area. Due to the strength of demand and lack of supply, Jones Lang LaSalle predicted prime rents could increase to 115 pounds per square foot by the end of 2014, which could deter occupiers.

Jones Lang LaSalle also urged caution, commenting that further constraints on planning regulations could possibly reduce investor appetite, especially in comparison with other European destinations. A reduction in investor interest would be a missed opportunity, with Crossrail set to have a significant impact on regeneration that will ultimately extend the prime investment area and increase the number of Asia-Pacific investors as a result, it noted.

Richard Dickinson, CEO at New West End Company, said: “This report clearly shows the strength of the West End as a global shopping and leisure powerhouse but we also need to be constantly on our guard and not be over reliant on any one sort of shopper – such as tourists. The core West End also has to provide new retail and leisure space of the right type and scale if we are to keep in front of the competition. If we stand still on these and other key issues we will find our leadership position quickly undermined.”

Guy Grainger, UK CEO of Jones Lang LaSalle, added: “The health of the West End is vital to the overall economic health of London and indeed the rest of the UK, too.

The West End area covers 1,000 businesses and 42 streets, and attracts 315 million visitors per year with a combined spend of 10 billion pounds.

Image: Regent Street

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