West End retailers are calling for fresh support and radical reform to help continue their pandemic recovery.
The organisation representing 600 outlets and hospitality firms in Bond St, Oxford St, Regent St and Mayfair announced the district is returning to pre-coronavirus levels, but that it still needs help to stop it faltering.
The New West End Company said the sector will return to historic annual turnover of £10bn by 2025, according to consultancy firm Colliers, after experiencing a boost in sales by 109 per cent from 2021.
Outlets including hotels, restaurants and retailers asked for both government support, reform to business rates and a relaxation of Sunday trading laws, amid a bleak economic outlook.
Adding that “recovery is not without its challenges” the NWEC said retail footfall was impacted by low consumer confidence, the cost of living crisis and a dip in tourism.
To “ensure the West End stays on the right track”, NWEC urged the treasury to act on the “urgent need to fundamentally reform business rates” including a “relaxation of Sunday trading laws”.
With shops currently having to close at 6pm, it estimates about £350m extra would be generated if retailers could operate after that time.
Growth was attributed in part to the opening of the Elizabeth Line, with the NWEC saying it was the main route of transport for 13 per cent of visitors, and will boost sales by up to £7bn by 2031.
Interim chief executive of New West End Company, Dee Corsi, said it “is encouraging to see that we are still on track to hit £10 billion turnover despite the setbacks businesses across the West End have had to deal with this year.”
Heralding the opening of the Elizabeth Line and new Bond Street station, Corsi called for further support with “the relaxation of Sunday trading hours ..stimulating further growth and putting us back on the map.
“We have an eager international audience with cash to spend waiting in the wings – we now simply have to ensure that we’re open for business at the right times.”
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said the retail “figures show the resilience of one of London’s top tourist destinations”, and that the Elizabeth line “is helping to turbo-charge” its recovery.
Khan added however, that many firms are “facing a fresh set of challenges with rising energy prices, increased business costs and disposable incomes being squeezed”.
The government should give “tangible support” including with “urgent business rates reform, and bringing forward the reintroduction of tax-free shopping for international visitors so we can start benefiting as soon as possible.”
A government spokesperson said: “We are providing £7 billion of support to reduce the burden of rates over the next five years, including further business rates relief, more frequent revaluations and freezing the multiplier to put the brakes on bill increases.
“We believe Sunday trading laws provide a good balance between the interests of large shops, people who want to shop more on Sundays, and those who value Sundays as a different trading day to others.”