London retailers fear impact of terrorism

Retailers fear a triple-whammy of congestion charging, Tube disruption and the threat of terrorist attacks will hit London trading.

The£5 congestion charge comes into force on Monday, the Central Line will not operate again until the end of next month and troops have been stationed at Heathrow Airport after intelligence reports of a specific terrorist threat.

John Lewis director of selling Gareth Thomas said last week's sales at the Oxford Street branch were down 5 per cent on the previous year. The fall was partly attributed to the closure of the Central Line.

He added: 'From recent experience, when people are concerned about security, our sales in Oxford Street tend to reflect that and can vary by anything up to 10 per cent.'

But figures from monitoring firm SPSL for the week commencing February 2, showed shopper numbers in central London rose by 1.5 per cent on the previous year. A spokeswoman for Body Shop said: 'We cannot predict the impact of tightened security at Heathrow. It is too early to comment.'

Some fashion groups are already putting contingency plans into operation in the event of war. New Look managing director Phil Wrigley said buying trips to Turkey are continuing for now, but alternative sources in Eastern Europe have been set up.

- Asda is to sell electric cars, exempt from the congestion charge, to customers from its London stores in Leyton, Wembley and Park Royal.