Sunday 1 August 2021 10:00 am

The return of the West End: rebuilding a delicate ecosystem of workers and culture

Luciana Magliocco is Associate Director of Oxford Street at New West End Company

While London’s West End may be known for its flagship stores, Michelin star restaurants, world-class hotels and unrivalled theatres, it is also home to a thriving office sector. One in ten Londoners are employed in the West End across various industries, from retail and leisure through to finance and real estate. This ecosystem of industries and workers not only forms the foundation of the district but provides valuable customers for West End businesses.

While there are of course numerous benefits of remote working, we cannot ignore the chain reaction that it has on those districts and city centres that rely heavily on office workers as a key customer base. Thankfully a large number of Londoners are eager to get back to the office, with as many at 60 per cent ready to ditch remote working – up from 9 per cent in February. Prime office space is still in high demand. 

Despite this willingness to return, it may be some months before we see pre-pandemic levels of office workers fully back in the district with many companies adopting new flexible working policies which may see workers return to offices two or three days a week. 

West End businesses have been working to restore the ecosystem which tempted workers in in the first place. With the return of indoor hospitality, more al fresco dining areas and better weather, business lunches and drinks are once again to be enjoyed in the West End, with workers starting to step away from their Zoom screens.

Along with these offerings, it is key that districts are enticing workers back with perks they can’t access at home. West End and Mayfair workers are able to enjoy discounts offers and access to events through a loyalty app designed to bring people back into the heart of London. 

Public transport and the commute is a drawback for many workers who have become used to having more time in the morning. There have been huge investments in new cycle routes, as well as bike parking on street and indoors. 

Businesses have worked tirelessly over the past year to ensure that they can welcome back their customers in a safe, secure and enjoyable way. As restrictions get further lifted later this month, we hope that more workplaces will open their doors to colleagues to help bring central London back to life, encouraging the return of our much missed customers and to drive the city’s recovery.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.