Transport for London has been urged to change its message and encourage visitors to London’s West End after shoppers stayed away at the weekend because of the Olympics.
In the run up to the Games, TFL has warned people to avoid central London hotspots, including Bond Street tube and Oxford Circus, two major underground stations along shopping Mecca Oxford Street.
After a week-on-week footfall slump of 12.4% in the West End and west London retail centres on Saturday, New West End Company has called on TFL to encourage people to the area.
A New West End Company spokesman said retailers had braced themselves for “very different trading patterns”, but said advice from authorities warning Londoners to avoid busy areas had perhaps gone too far.
He said: “[TFL] did a great job in communicating that message, but now we know it’s quieter than expected I think it needs to change.
“The new message should be ‘come and enjoy your city’ - particularly to those people working from home or on holiday.”
Footfall fell 5.6% on Friday, was down 12.4% on Saturday and was flat on Sunday week-on-week in the West End and west London shopping centres, according to Experian data. Year-on-year Friday was down 10.4%, Saturday down 11.7% and Sunday was up 1.6%.
In East London fell 7% year-on-year on Friday and Saturday but rose 13% on Sunday. Shopper numbers in East London rose 22% week-on-week on Sunday and were up 7% on Saturday.
Staff at one major department store described it as of the quietest weekends of the year so far, with some colleagues even being sent home, while those at another luxury store reported that it had been “very quiet”.
The New West End Company spokesman added: “There’s been displacement towards the Olympics and fewer tourists as expected, but there’s also been a boost from the ‘Olympic family’ [officials and sponsors] – who spend more.”
Retailers believe shoppers had a lie-in on Saturday after watching the Olympics opening ceremony the night before, the Financial Times reported.
The slump in footfall has affected other businesses too. Visitor numbers to London’s museums are said to be at 65% of normal levels and theatre-goers have also been staying away.
In the build-up to the Games there were fears that shoppers would stay away from central London because of concerns about possible travel chaos and congestion.
Data from the Centre for Retail Research estimated the Olympics would add £561m to retail spend, but that there would be £30m of “displaced” spending as shoppers who would normally come to London avoided the capital.
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TFL urged to encourage visitors to London's West End as Olympics hits footfall