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London's West End urges more government action, warns 50,000 jobs could be lost

By Huw Hughes


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The New West End Company (NWEC) is calling for more clarity from the government concerning post-lockdown measures, and for tax-free shopping for European tourists, warning that without such actions the area faces a huge drop in sales and jobs.

The company, which represents 600 businesses in affluent shopping areas in London such as across Oxford Street, Bond Street, Regent Street and Mayfair, welcomed 5.1 million visitors since non-essential stores reopened on 15 June, down 73 percent year-on-year. According to the latest data from retail expert Springboard, footfall across UK high streets are down 57.2 percent compared with June 2019.

“What this data shows, is that city centres, significantly central London, are being held back by a series of restrictions, including uncertainty surrounding returning to work and the use of public transport,” said The NWEC. The company estimates that the lack of domestic and international tourists and office workers could lead to a 5 billion pound loss in sales, and more than 50,000 job losses.

Calls for tax-free shopping with the EU

The company is calling for EU shoppers to be included in the tax-free shopping system post-Brexit. Around 70 percent of the UK’s international visitors are from EU member states but they are excluded from its tax-free shopping scheme. Including them in that scheme post-Brexit could add up to 1.4 billion pounds in retail sales annually, the NWEC estimates. That could give an overall benefit of 2.1 billion pounds to the UK economy.

”The protection of retail and leisure jobs is our utmost priority, and while the Government’s measures take the first step in supporting the West End’s recovery, without consumer confidence to travel and visit; this situation is highly precarious with 50,000 jobs are at risk,” said NWEC CEO Jace Tyrrel in a statement.

“With no international visitors and mixed messaging surrounding the safety of returning to work and using public transport, we urgently seek clarity of Government messaging for our businesses to survive. With the UK-EU trade deal deadline also looming, we need to ensure that destinations that rely on international visitors, which have been so hard hit by the pandemic, are accounted for in longer-term recovery plans including levelling up on tax-free shopping with the EU.”

Photo credit: FashionUnited

New West End Company