Central London retailers are hopeful eager Christmas shoppers will offset the absence of office workers in the capital this month while warning businesses are running out of cash.
New West End Company, which represents 600 brands, restaurants and businesses in the West End, said footfall for the week of 6 December was up three per cent week-on-week.
However, the area was still nearly a third less busy compared to pre-pandemic comparatives.
Businesses fear the re-introduction of work-from-home guidance from this week in England will deter shoppers from visiting retail destinations, opting to shop on local high streets or online instead.
They had been hoping that waves of Christmas shoppers would help them recoup losses from last Christmas, when regional Covid restrictions swept the country.
Last Sunday saw the biggest boost, with footfall across areas such as Oxford St and Bond St up 26 per cent week-on-week.
Jace Tyrrell, chief executive at New West End Company said: “Following the hammer blow of the Prime Minister’s announcement of the reinstatement of work from home guidance, retailers will have been cheered by a solid weekend that saw footfall rise three per cent week on week. Retailers will be hoping this can offset some of the impact from the loss of office workers in the vital last full week before Christmas.”
Many businesses in the area have depleted cash reserves and desperately need cash flow support, Tyrell explained.
“While the safety of the public remains our top priority, we are extremely concerned about the long-term survival of many of the retail and hospitality businesses in our district,” he said.
Tyrell echoed calls from other sector voices for the government to “match the pace of restrictions with vital business support.”
The sector has called for emergency measures such as slashing or freezing VAT payments, business rates and other costs.