LONDON — The organization and atmosphere of the London Olympics may have received a gold medal, but the retail performance earned at best a bronze.
Having gotten off to a worrisomely slack start, retail in central London started to pick up speed during the second week of the Summer Games, as traffic-shy locals returned to the center of town and visitors began splashing out on souvenirs.
Although official footfall numbers won’t be reported until early next month, retailers and trade organizations began breathing a little easier last week following fears the Games would be a bust for business.
“Sales were more solid in the second week compared with the first, and footfall was up in double digits compared with last year. Athletes and people generally chose to shop later, and anything with a London 2012 logo was flying off the shelves,” said Jace Tyrrell, a spokesman for the New West End Co., which promotes businesses around Oxford Circus and Bond and Regent Streets.
“We had a late start, but it came good in the end. Corporate and VIP guests helped with higher-end spending, and we saw a trend for gifting among the Chinese and Southeast Asian visitors.”
Tyrrell added that retailers are now looking forward to Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan and is usually a time of celebration and gift-giving. The holiday begins on Aug. 19.
Richard Dodd of the British Retail Consortium, a trade association, said there was a clear pickup in shopper numbers and sales as the Olympics progressed, although its August data won’t be published until Sept. 4.
“We’ve seen an increase in sales of food, drink and souvenir items across the U.K. Food and drink is the part of retailing where the Olympics has had the greatest effect,” he said, adding that luxury-goods sales had also seen an uptick from increased spending by overseas visitors.
Experian FootFall, which provides analytical and marketing information, saw shopper traffic increase by more than 13 percent in West London on Aug. 7. “Most notable here is the impact of Tuesday’s [Olympic] triathlon event, which took place in and around West London’s Hyde Park,” the company said. “Footfall outside of the Olympic Park was clearly diverted to the event, where spectators didn’t require a ticket…and subsequently dispersed into nearby shops.”
At Liberty, which is located off Regent Street, sales began to pick up last Wednesday, midway through the second week. “Business was really, really healthy, with our regular customers coming back and tourists visiting,” said Ed Burstell, the store’s managing director.
“Everything with the Union Jack on it, and limited-edition items sold well,” Burstell added, pointing to scarves with prints from the Liberty archives and Barbour jackets with Liberty lining. “It all washed out fine — and now everyone is talking about getting ready for the Paralympics. There will be fewer international visitors, so we’re expecting to sell more British items to British tourists.”
The Paralympics run from Aug. 29 to Sept. 9.
Retail began with a whimper during the first week of the Games, following a barrage of messages from the London mayor’s office and Transport for London that warned locals that Olympics-related traffic would be heavy, and to plan their journeys accordingly or simply work from home.
With an estimated 1.5 million people working from home during the first week of the Games, central London retailers saw their footfall and sales plummet. As a result, Prime Minister David Cameron, the London Mayor’s office, Transport for London and the New West End Co. urged Londoners to return to the city center.
While the second week saw business improve, it remains unclear how much of a boost the Olympics will give London and the U.K. over the coming months and years.
“The Olympics were never going to make or break retail. There are other, more significant factors at work,” said Dodd of the British Retail Consortium, referring to the ever-cautious British consumer and the shrinking U.K. economy. “The Olympics were useful and added a much-needed boost to retail.”
Last month, Goldman Sachs issued a report, “The Olympics and Economics 2012,” which estimated that the additional expenditure in the U.K. would boost third-quarter gross domestic product by 1.2 percent to 1.6 percent, compared with the second quarter. However, it also pointed out that any short-term benefit would be largely reversed in the fourth quarter.
The Goldman report added that, overall, hosting the Olympics plays an important role in promoting a city internationally. “Given that London is already a high-profile city for tourism and investment, the incremental benefit from this promotion may be more limited [than Beijing and Barcelona],” the report said.
The British prime minister, however, is hopeful about a halo effect. In an article published in the Sunday Times of London, Cameron said: “Over a decade we can use the Olympics to bring home business worth 13 billion [pounds],” or $20.4 billion at current exchange. “That’s more than the cost of the Games.” He was referring more specifically to winning business and jobs for Britain in relation to contracts for the 2014 Winter Games in Russia and the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil.
According to a report from Visa, an Olympic sponsor for 25 years, the Games will bring a 5.1 billion pound, or $8 billion, economic stimulus to Britain between now and 2015.
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye
“It’s passion that helps get anybody to a certain point and it’s what’s propelled me,” said Kith founder @ronniefieg, one of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables who are changing the face of retail, fashion and beauty. Fieg, who opened a Manhattan flagship on October 7, began his career at age 13 as a stock boy and salesman for footwear chain David Z. “I think staying true to [my] beliefs, hard work and passion have gotten me to where [Kith] is today.” See the rest of the 40 at WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
25-year-old @samweaving is about to break out this fall, starring in Netflix’s horror film “The Babysitter,” fittingly out today on Friday the 13th. That’s not the only place you’ll be seeing her, though — Weaving’s got a role Showtime’s “SMILF” and another alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Though she’s got a full plate at the moment, there’s one role she’s got her eye on: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m a little too young at the moment, but it’s on my bucket list,” the actress told WWD (📷: @dandoperalski) #wwdeye
BFF's Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse celebrated the launch of their bag line Pop x Suki at Nordstrom last night. "The line is really about our friendship, and how we are so different but complement each other," said Waterhouse. 👯 (📷: Katie Jones) #wwdeye
After designing the new @louisvuitton and @bulgariofficial flagships and a @chanelofficial boutique opening in Japan, @petermarinoarchitect has another project on his plate: The Lobster Club. Located in the Seagram Building, it’s the famed architect’s first restaurant project in New York, serving up modern Japanese brasserie-style cuisine. Bronze hues, bespoke material detailing, blush and chartreuse tones and a heavy emphasis on Picasso can be seen throughout. Mark your calendars for Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated opening. (📷: @clint_spaulding) #wwdeye