Paralympics lift footfall in West End by a fifth

 
Michael Bow
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FOOTFALL in the West End surged by nearly a fifth during the Paralympic games compared to the year before as retail spending in the area bucked the August gloom, data out today reveals.

Figures obtained by Springboard, which monitors high-street shopping numbers, shows footfall in the areas around Piccadilly and Leicester Square increased by 18.7 per cent during the Paralympics - held between 29 August and 9 September - compared to the same dates in 2011.

Food and beverage sales in the area also spiked by 25.3 per cent year on year for the first five days of the Paralympics, with tourists taking advantage of the warm weather to dine in the area's outdoor restaurants.

Sarah Porter, chief executive of the Heart of London Business Alliance district, made up of 500 businesses in the area, said: "The Paralympics brought a strong number of domestic visitors to London who looked to enjoy some serious leisure time, and came to see and experience all that we have to offer - with the additional draw of high profile transformations of Leicester Square and the Hippodrome."

The area, which covers Piccadilly & St James's and Leicester Square to Piccadilly Circus, also saw a 3.2 per cent increase in visitors on a weekly basis for the first week of the Games. Springboard head of retail insights Diane Wehrle said: "The area drew in significant crowds, and capitalised on the buzz of the Games."

The good news out of the West End is in contrast to the poor retail performance recorded during the Olympics between 27 July and 12 August. According to industry group the British Retail Consortium, August was the second worst month of the year for retail sales, as the Olympics failed to lift activity in UK shops. Figures show sales declined 0.4 per cent during the period.