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London’s West End traders ask for support as the area continues to be hit by lower footfall

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Representatives of Arcadia, Hackett, Uniqlo, Schuh and Selfridges have met the Mayor of London to set out the impact that a 63% decline in footfall in London’s West End – resulting from Covid-19 lockdowns – is having on their businesses.

Two months on from retail reopening, visitor numbers to the West End are still sharply down, even as other retail locations have started to recover. The New West End Company’s own research shows that while 43% of shoppers feel confident about visiting shops, thanks to the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme and the compulsory use of face masks, only 23% feel confident using public transport such as the London Underground. Just under three quarters (74%) of those surveyed said they were unlikely to visit central London in the next month. 

That’s an area where one in 10 Londoners are employed, and the West End says it faces losing 50,000 jobs more than £5 billion in annual sales. It is calling for more support as a result. 

Jace Tyrell, chief executive at the New West End Company, which represents 600 retail, restaurant hotel and property owners in the area, said: “While we have seen a slow increase in footfall, our retail and hospitality businesses require further support in light of shoppers’ concerns. With few international visitors, the next couple of months will be a defining moment for hundreds of West End businesses and protection of jobs is our top priority. Instilling confidence in our valued local and domestic customers to come to central London will make a huge change to the hard-hit businesses across our district. We would call on the Government to keep retail and hospitality front of mind and not forget the beating heart of the British economy as lockdown is eased.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said, following yesterday’s meeting: “For decades central London has been the economic engine of the UK, a cultural powerhouse, and a gateway for global tourism to the UK. But it now faces a real existential threat from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Until we have an operational vaccine in place social distancing will have to continue to protect people’s health, and with employers planning to continue home-working well into next year, the numbers of people visiting the West End will be reduced for many months ahead.

“As Mayor I’m doing all within my powers to help. This includes providing loans and funding directly to small businesses and ensuring TfL’s unprecedented range of safety and hygiene measures mean more passengers are now able to travel on London public’s transport network.”

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