Oxford Street at risk as major closures dent appeal
Recent company failures, brand sales, strategic decisions around stores and footfall declines mean that London’s Oxford Street has a bleak future in the short term.
That’s according to a prediction by the body that represents retailers in the West End of London.
Debenhams will create one of the biggest holes in the street as the flagship, whose galleria concept was once a retail store trend-setter, is set to close for good next Tuesday.
Nearby, the future of Topshop’s Oxford Circus flagship remains unclear, while Gap and Next are said to be closing stores on the street and John Lewis is even transforming part of its London flagship into offices. Other empty spaces will become apparent once non-essential stores are allowed to reopen.
While many prime sites will be taken over by new names eventually, The New West End Company told The Telegraph that at least a fifth of what was once Europe’s busiest shopping street will be “boarded up with no hope of recovery” and more than 50,000 retail and hospitality jobs will be lost when the lockdown ends.
The newspaper also quoted Local Data Company figures that showed some locations on Oxford Street had been seeing problems even before the pandemic with 80 Oxford Street holding the unwelcome distinction of having seen the greatest tenant churn. It has had 14 tenants since 2002.
Its most recent occupier was a gift shop. The figures also showed that the number of gift shops on Oxford Street rose by 71% between 2012 and 2020, often replacing fashion/clothing shops, which saw the biggest decline in representation on the premier shopping thoroughfare. Fashion’s decline has also accelerated in the last two years and the events of 2020/early 2021 are likely to speed this up still further.
There are some plus points for the street though. While central London footfall has dropped by over 80% at some points in the past year, the much-delayed Cross-Rail project should deliver tens of millions more visitors when it’s finally up and running. This should attract high-quality tenants and help the street’s regeneration. Westminster council is almost investing many millions into improving the visitor experience on Oxford Street, although decades of proposals around pedestrianisation have still not advanced.
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