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March 11, 2015
  • West End set for biggest tranch of new retail space in 50 years
  • Record international demand for retail space from Piccadilly to Carnaby
  • Retail sales top £11bn across the West End in 2014 – a record
  • Crossrail spurs historic public realm investment across the West End
  • Revival of ‘night time economy’ behind 9.1% uplift in food and beverage sales

Record international demand, investment and development across the West End during 2014 culminated in the area contributing £51.25bn to the UK economy, according to the latest figures from the UK’s Office for National Statistics using an analysis by Oxford Economics.

Following a wave of over 80 new West End brand openings in 2014 including Victoria Beckham, Hunter, Aquascutum, Watches of Switzerland, the area experienced bumper trading days with Black Friday retail sales topping a record £11bn from Piccadilly, to Bond Street and Carnaby.

Beyond retail, the West End’s leisure and hospitality economy was equally buoyant with food and drink sales up 9.1% YOY, according to the Heart of London Business Alliance Food and Beverage Sales 2014, and theatre ticket sales up 6.5% YOY. The West End’s hotel sector benefited from a £1.5 billion investment whilst new arrivals included the Ham Yard Hotel in Piccadilly and Corbin & King’s first hotel, The Beaumont Hotel, in Mayfair with The Grosvenor Estate.

The findings were revealed on 4th March when over 200 of the most influential business leaders in the West End gathered at the Gielgud Theatre to hear findings from the third annual report, London’s West End: Review & Outlook. Produced by global real estate experts JLL – on behalf of the New West End Company, Heart of London Business Alliance and Shaftesbury PLC – the report provides the most comprehensive analysis of the West End to date across retail, property, hospitality and leisure. In total, the West End covers 109 streets, 254 flagship stores attracting 390 million visitors per year.

“The West End’s connectivity and public realm will benefit hugely from the arrival of Crossrail in 2018 as well as ongoing inward investment and redevelopment,” said JLL’s UK CEO Guy Grainger.

“This is in the context of London already being the largest city economy in Europe in GDP terms and with the prediction that continued economic recovery will further drive domestic and international footfall.  Innovation in local government financing is required to secure vital investment in public realm project, infrastructure and place management. Continuous dynamism and proactivity is required to ensure that the West End always remains relevant and stays as the leading visitor destination and investment hub.”

With Crossrail set to double current passenger numbers at both Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road stations when it launches in 2018, the report reveals how this major shift in transport infrastructure has delivered an opportunity for a number of significant new development schemes – the largest number in over 50 years..

The report also highlights a burgeoning desirability amongst retailers for traditionally less sought after surrounding streets, near the re-developed Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road tube stations. This is set to be a key occupancy trend over the next two years.  

According to Richard Dickinson, Chief Executive Officer, New West End Company, the report reveals that 2014 was a strong year for the West End’s performance and landmark leasing deals.

“With an unrivalled interplay of retail, leisure and hospitality industries, it is not surprising that the West End continues to outstrip its competitors with retail sitting at the core of the area’s economic output. Existing retailers want to upsize and international brands are vying to locate here with the upcoming pipeline of new retail spaces in the Core West End set to fulfil this demand.”

Elsewhere, Crossrail has had wider positive repercussions for the area in spurring a succession of major public realm initiatives led by the Business Improvement Districts and landlords including The Crown Estate and The Grosvenor Estate.

The first major improvement plan for Bond Street received the green light in 2014 with a multi-million pound investment and support from Westminster City Council and Transport for London. This ambitious public realm project will be the first of its kind in the area for 30 years with the aim of increasing pedestrian spaces by 50% and creating a two way traffic scheme. With the second phase of the Piccadilly Two Way scheme complete, the third and final phase will cement the transformation of the built environment, showcasing the heritage of the area and importantly improving access for visitors.

Commenting on the report, Sarah Porter, CEO, Heart of London Business Alliance, said that the results highlight the continued importance of future-proofing the West End by creating a rich visitor offering and experience beyond retail.

“The area’s strong leisure and entertainment offer continues to enrich the visitor experience with institutions such as The Royal Academy of Arts and The Ritz London giving the area international acclaim. As home to many of the West End’s most renowned historic qualities, we have worked carefully with TFL, Westminster City Council and The Crown Estate to ensure our approach to improving the public realm for visitors puts the heritage of the area at its heart.”  

The vibrancy of the West End’s dining and leisure scene has never been stronger and the area is now unequivocally recognised as one of the most sought after locations for both Michelin starred restaurateurs and vibrant independents. This dynamic blend of established and emerging eateries had helped drive the ‘night time economy’, increase visitor dwell time and increase average spend across the area.

“The report highlights that the West End is continuing to offer an unrivalled environment of retail, leisure and hospitality which explains in part its attraction for brands and operators seeking premises, visitors coming to London and its large working population,” explained Brian Bickell, CEO, Shaftesbury PLC

The interplay between the retail and the restaurant scene, which complements the West End’s many other attractions, continues to be a draw for all those seeking something new and importantly, unique.” 

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