LONDON — Central London retailers are preparing for a festive Christmas season: sales on Bond, Oxford and Regent Streets are projected to rise 1.2 percent compared to last year, according to a report issued by the New West End Company, which supports businesses in the shopping districts.
Noting the New West End Company’s positive outlook, the report forecast the “best Christmas since 2007,” despite an expected 1.5 percent drop in the number of visitors to the area in December. Citing research and information from Harper Dennis Hobbs and interviews from retailers, the company said it is predicting 2.3 billion pounds, or about $3.5 billion at current exchange, in sales during the holiday trading period. The average shopper is projected to spend about 211 pounds, or $323.
The report also noted an uptick in international shoppers, particularly from the U.S. The number of American shoppers on Bond, Oxford and Regent Streets is up 17 percent year-on-year. “The reasons for the increase in the number of Americans buying goods in the West End is down to a number of factors, mainly the performance of the dollar against sterling,” New West End deputy chief executive officer Jace Tyrrell told WWD. They are also capitalizing on tax-free sales and a 5 percent decrease in price owing to exchange rates.
In terms of the Chinese economic climate, Tyrell said that, while the number of visitors has been more inconsistent, there was an increase in Chinese shoppers this year and suggested that issues with travel visas might be a reason for this.
“While the numbers of visitors from China has been more inconsistent in 2015 than in previous years, we haven’t seen a slowdown completely,” Tyrrell said. “There has actually been a general increase of Chinese consumers in the West End, up 5 percent this year. Around 25 percent of all visitors to the West End are from overseas — and Chinese travelers make over a fifth [21 percent] of every pound spent in this area from international visitors. Our figures show the typical Chinese shopper spends an average of 1,378 pounds (or $2,112) per transaction in West End stores, with gifting items exclusive to Britain and London brands proving the most popular. To build on this trend and secure a more regular flow of Chinese tourists visiting London’s West End, we need to make tourist visas easier for this market to obtain.”
The New West End Company is a founding member of the U.K. China Visa Alliance, which was successful this year in campaigning for a 10-year visa pilot to allow Chinese tourists to visit the U.K. for longer periods of time. The number of Chinese visitors to the U.K. has almost trebled over the last five years, from 115,000 in 2009 to 336,000 in 2014 and spending has increased by 326 percent. The extension of the visitor visas will enable them to maximize their spending power even further. The standard six-month visas costs 85 pounds, or $130. If new two-year and 10-year visas are introduced, they will cost the same regardless the term.