LONDON — Shoppers swarmed the city’s major retail streets in the West End, Knightsbridge and Chelsea over the weekend, just two days after terrorist bombs tore through transport systems, killing more than 70 and injuring some 700 hundred commuters.
After all, it’s the summer sale season.
On Saturday, Selfridges was packed: customers were jockeying for attention at the main floor Prada, Dior and Louis Vuitton concessions, and it was difficult to move around the ground floor cosmetics and beauty area due to the bargain-hunters and baby carriages.
A Selfridges spokeswoman said business had already begun to pick up on Friday, just 24 hours after four bomb attacks on London’s transport system. “It was business as usual on Friday, and trading was brisk from the start of the morning,” she said.
Double-decker buses were back in action and plowing through traffic up and down Oxford Street. Business was lively at stores including the Gap, H&M, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer, which all planned to stay open, as usual, until 9:00 p.m. There was no avoiding lines for changing rooms — or cash registers — at any of those stores.
In the ritzier retail areas of Bond Street and Savile Row, business was also brisk. Burberry, Gucci and Smythson were packed with shoppers hunting for end-of-season wares. Even men’s tailors Richard James and Kilgour were crowded.
The scene was similar in other shopping districts, including Covent Garden, Carnaby Street and Knightsbridge. “The city was alive, busy, hectic. It didn’t feel any different from any other Saturday,” said one Bond Street shopper.
However, the U.K. remained edgy with security scares throughout Saturday here and in Birmingham, where 20,000 people were evacuated from the entertainment district.
In the New York metropolitan region, where memories of 9/11 are still vivid, shoppers were undeterred. “It’s very similar to what happened with the bombing in Spain,” said Mike McAvinue, general manager of the Mall at Short Hills in Short Hills, N.J. “If it’s not in their immediate backyard it doesn’t impact consumers.” The center has beefed up security. “We’re 20 miles from ground zero and a very prominent shopping center,” he said.
At the Roosevelt Field Mall in Westbury, N.Y., Banana Republic was filled with shoppers. “We were busy yesterday,” said a store manager. “Consumers aren’t really talking about the bombing. I would say I’ve seen more security. We now have restrictions to where we can and cannot bring in packages.”
In London, police continued their forensic investigations into the attack — the worst that the city had witnessed since World War II — while families searched for missing victims of the blasts. Church services were held across the country to honor the dead.
On Sunday morning, undeterred by the shock of the attacks, tourists and Britons flocked to St. James’ Park to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. Members of the royal family attended a special service at Westminster Abbey to mark the occasion.
Later in the day, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip traveled in an open-top Range Rover from Whitehall back to Buckingham Palace as part of the celebrations. They were on their way to see the poppies being dropped at 5:00 pm local time.
Although tourists and London denizens alike may have put on a brave face at the weekend, industry analysts say the retail world as a whole will continue to feel a ripple effect from the attacks.
SPSL, a retail consultancy, publishes Retail Traffic Index, which showed the number of shoppers in stores in central London was reduced by 77 percent last Thursday, compared with the previous Thursday, June 30.
“We expect the negative impact of the central London bombs to continue for some time, although the effect will reduce over the next few weeks,” said Tim Denison, director of knowledge management at SPSL.
“In the short term, we anticipate shoppers will tend to avoid traveling on public transport, visiting high-profile destinations and shopping in high-profile stores,” he added. “In the medium term we may well see fewer foreign or out-of-town visitors in London.”
In a research alert soon after the attacks, Seymour Pierce said stores with units in the city center such as Marks & Spencer, Boots, House of Fraser and Next would likely be the ones most affected by the attacks.
Alternatively, those with out-of-town units would fare better, the Seymour Pierce statement said.