Games cast a shadow over West End

What could be the downside of the London 2012 Olympics? Ask West End retailers...

When Mayor of London Boris Johnson warned workers to stay away from the city centre during the Olympics, city-dwellers heeded his warning. As an estimated 1.5m workers stay home to avoid potential public-transport havoc, analysts suggest that West End businesses are paying the price.

‘It’s been a bit of a roller coaster—every day has been different,’ Ed Burstell, managing director of Liberty, told WWD. ‘The regular local London customer has clearly fled the city, and the tourist traffic has been sporadic. We are trading just slightly up to last year, and luckily we benefit from our location between Regent and Carnaby streets. But from what I see and hear, it’s a bloodbath around town.’

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The New West End Company, a trade group that represents businesses on some of London’s busiest shopping avenues, echoed Burstell’s observations in a statement: ‘We have been working on measures to reverse the significant drop in retail spending and visitors into the West End.’

The NWEC originally estimated that West End retailers would make an additional £16.6m as a result of the Olympics.

‘The forecasts for this summer predicted a different trading pattern and the lack of London workers and domestic visitors has been quickly apparent as a result of Transport for London traffic demand management,’ the group added.

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In a bid to lure shoppers back into the West End, the NWEC will launch a ‘Welcome Back London’ campaign, deploying direct mailings, social media outreach and free parking on Saturday 18 and 25 August.

It’s not all doom and shopping gloom. The big winner amid the shopping woes has been Westfield. Its Stratford location, immediately adjacent to the Olympic Park, has been so busy that LOCOG has closed the mall to non-ticket-holding members of the public on Fridays and Saturdays during the Games. And Olympics sponsor Visa expects the Games to stimulate the British economy to the tune of £5.1bn between now and 2015.

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