May 12, 2021
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London's West End to see high summer footfall says NWEC survey

May 12, 2021

Central London footfall may still be well down on pre-pandemic levels, but an uptick is expected for this summer with a survey from the New West End Company (NWEC) suggesting consumers are keen to get back to the UK’s premier shopping district.

New West End Company

Its research was carried out last month among 1,200 consumers and it showed that UK consumer confidence is at its highest level since the pandemic began with 64% of those surveyed feeling confident shopping for non-essential items.

In April, West End footfall levels averaged 45% of the ‘usual’ monthly number, but with 61% of London workers wanting to return full-time to the office (a 9-point increase since February), there’s clearly a large number of consumers waiting to help drive that footfall higher.

The current 45% may not seem like a brilliant number. But given that footfall was down by more than 80% at various points during the pandemic lockdowns (and stayed above 50% down even after the original lockdown easing last year was several months old), it's actually a strong figure.

NWEC said it indicates “an encouraging first month back, with shoppers taking full advantage of the West End’s outdoor spaces, restaurants and retail stores. This marks a significant boost for the district’s businesses, given the continued absence of international tourism, which usually makes up a third of total visitors”.

It added that footfall is “expected to increase steadily over the summer months”, helped by that boost to consumer confidence.

In fact, it seems 64% of people now feel confident shopping for non-essential items, and 61% feel confident eating out in restaurants, a 21-point and 18-point increase, respectively, since February. By comparison, during the first reopening in June 2020, just 41% of consumers felt confident shopping for non-essential items.

Consumers also feel much more confident using public transport with 54% now confident travelling, in comparison to 35% in June 2020. That’s hugely important given the fact that public transport is key for getting to the West End. 

That said, it could be some time before the district gets back to normal. Even though a large number of office workers want to return, a sizeable minority aren't keen. And Londoners also want to continue some level of flexible working.

But overall, the signs are good. Jace Tyrrell, Chief Executive of New West End Company, said: “April’s reopening was long-awaited, and it did not disappoint. Londoners are heading back to the West End. We hope to welcome streams of visitors from London and the UK to experience the unparalleled offering of the West End this summer.”

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