Sunday 8 November 2009 7:00 pm

Tourists will fill West End

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CENTRAL London shops expect to receive a glut of foreign customers this winter, enticed to the capital by the current weakness of the pound.

The New West End Company, which represents retailers in Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street, is expecting a 5-10 per cent year-on-year increase in foreign shoppers over the festive period.

With less than 50 days to go until Christmas, and more shoppers hitting the stores early to wrap up their present buying, it promises to be a particularly busy time for London’s shops.

The Christmas shopping season officially began when the lights were turned on last week.

It is expected to bring around 40m shoppers to the West End, and 10m of those will come from overseas.

Middle Eastern shoppers are known for being the biggest spenders, and it is expected that there will be 15-20 per cent more visitors from the Middle East than last year.

Also cashing in on the favourable exchange rate will be European shoppers, who for the first time have outnumbered American tourists this year.

Half of the £2bn spent in London by tourists each year normally comes from the US.

This will be the first Christmas shopping season with Oxford Circus’ new Tokyo-style pedestrian crossing, unveiled by the Mayor last week.

It allows for diagonal road crossing, and is expected to double the number of people who can cross at any one time.

It is part of a £5m remodelling programme to make shopping easier, which also included removing railings and traffic islands, and widening the pavements.