The West End of London, which encompasses world famous shopping streets like Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street, had a welcome boost over the Black Friday weekend with a 1% increase in shoppers on 2016 figures. Visitors returned in their droves despite false reports of an incident at Oxford Circus tube station on Friday afternoon.
Before police reports on Friday evening, footfall throughout the West End was up 4.5% on the same time last year, indicating that the international shopping district was heading for a record-breaking Black Friday weekend. Shoppers looking to make the most of the West End’s shops, restaurants and Christmas lights kept coming across the weekend, with several department stores reporting their busiest Saturdays this year.
The numbers point to the continued resilience of the West End in what has been a challenging trading year, with the London district outperforming the rest of the UK’s high streets on both Saturday and Sunday. Across the country, the number of visitors to other UK high streets was down 2.5%. The 1% increase is also particularly encouraging given it was reported that footfall was down 12% at the end of Friday, further reinforcing the attraction of London’s West End for shoppers looking to kick-start their Christmas shopping.
Jace Tyrrell, Chief Executive at New West End Company, which represents 600 businesses in London's West End, including Bond street, Oxford Street and Regent Street said: “It was a relief that the activity at Oxford Circus on Friday was a false alarm with no serious injuries. Whilst it did impact numbers on Friday evening, the resilience of the West End has really shone through as footfall was recorded at over one million during the weekend. Our shoppers, both domestic and international, continue to enjoy the fantastic experience the West End has to offer as one of the world's leading retail and leisure destinations."
Tyrrell continued: “Keeping visitors safe is our utmost priority and the events of Friday afternoon demonstrate how quickly and efficiently the police respond to protect the public and staff. In the age of social media, information travels incredibly quickly and not always accurately, so we should explore alternative ways of communicating with the public during such incidents. We can look to other international cities for inspiration such as Tokyo, which uses a tannoy system to communicate with the public. We are in conversations with the Borough Commander and Deputy Mayor for Policing to review our planning, systems and responses to ensure lessons are learnt.”
Black Friday is an informal shopping day which sees retailers mark the start of the Christmas shopping season in the UK with special offers and deals.
Retailers in London’s West End continue to expect a strong Christmas period, with till receipts in the six weeks running up to Christmas forecast to rise by 1.5% to €2.95bn (£2.61bn).