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How are the London 2012 Olympics affecting retail?

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Early figures suggest that the much hoped-for Olympics spending boom will come online, if at all, rather than on the high street.

Since rain washed out the June bank holidays, retailers have been hoping for better results during the Olympics. In its retail sales figures, the IMRG suggested that the effect would be most fully felt online, especially as many worked from home to avoid transport problems. And while the July BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, acknowledged that the hope was of rising sales through the Olympics. Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG, warned that was, however, most likely to be concentrated in the South East.

Since then the first footfall figures from Experian have suggested the high street effect is even more concentrated than that – with footfall up by 22.08% in East London in the week to July 29, compared to the previous week, and up by 12. 56% on the same period last year. In West London, however the effect is more negative. West London footfall was down on Saturday July 28 by 12.4%, year-on-year, and only slightly up on Sunday July 29, by 0.72%, year-on-year, and according to reports, West End shops are set to launch an emergency campaign to encourage shoppers back to the streets.

Online, the early indications suggest that Olympic and sport-related goods are feeling the greatest boost. Shopping search site has said that since the Games began, there has been an 11% increase in total traffic on its network with searches related to sport and fitness increasing by 18%.

Dave McCall, UK country manager for, said: “While the high street is suffering since the Olympics began, online traffic is booming.

“As consumers are choosing to stay at home and watch the Olympics they are taking time out to browse online, particularly for sports and fitness gear, inspired by the great athletes on TV.”

Meanwhile, Experian analysis has already detected a rise in searches for Olympic-related themes. Visits to the official Team GB site rose by 150%, while a quarter of visitors to the London 2012 site go on to look for tickets. James Murray, digital insight manager for Experian Marketing Services, said: “Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony has captured the heart of the nation making it one of the most searched items in the UK last week. Billed as the first digital Olympics, this is evident as consumers flock online to share this once in a lifetime experience within their digital communities.”

And in its sales figures for the last week, John Lewis said that overall demand was “sapped” by the opening of the London 2012 Games, with total sales up by only 6.2%, compared to a first-half performance of 12.9%. However, London 2012 merchandise was selling well, with sales up by 86%, while online sales at were up by 34.6% in the week to July 28.

As Team GB continues to raise its medal tally, we’ll be waiting with interest to count the effect on retail in the coming week.

Has your retail business felt the Olympic effect? Let us know by emailing

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