London’s Oxford Street is poised to be pedestrianised by 2020 – exactly what the West End needs, argues Harper Dennis Hobbs’ Jonathan De Mello.
The Mayor’s proposed pedestrianisation of Oxford Street is most welcome.
Residents, workers and tourists alike would benefit hugely from it – and the West End would be transformed from what is currently quite a stressful shopping experience, given the crowds and pollution, to a far more pleasant, almost Continental experience.
Pedestrianisation would bring substantial financial benefits to retailers too, as footfall and turnover would increase along the street, also benefiting the adjacent Regent Street and Bond Street.
Harper Dennis Hobbs recently conducted a consumer survey of more than 3,000 shoppers on behalf of the New West End Company – the largest shopper survey ever conducted in the West End.
Opinions of the area were overwhelmingly positive in terms of the range and quality of shops on offer, the large volume of flagship stores and the sheer critical mass of retail.
“Some 41% of respondents cited the area being ‘less crowded’ as something that would prompt them to visit more, while 21% said they would go to the West End more ‘if it was pedestrianised’”
Negatives to emerge from the survey, however, included overcrowding, noise, traffic and pollution – issues that would be addressed in one fell swoop through pedestrianisation.
The West End is officially the most polluted place on earth, according to researchers at King’s College – unsurprising given the large volume of buses and taxis that regularly run up and down Oxford Street.
In the survey, the question was asked: ‘What would encourage you to visit the West End for shopping more often?’
Some 41% of respondents cited the area being ‘less crowded’ as something that would prompt them to visit more, while 21% said they would go to the West End more ‘if it was pedestrianised’.
The two are very much linked – clearly pedestrianisation would substantially reduce levels and perceptions of overcrowding.
A needed development
The pedestrianisation of Oxford Street will be much needed post-Crossrail too, with more than one million additional shoppers poised to visit the West End every year once the new line is opened up.
“Even if pedestrianisation has half the impact of Crosssrail then turnover would hit £12bn and leave London’s West End firmly outstripping the likes of New York, Paris and Hong Kong as the world’s principal retail hub”
Crossrail will even footfall out along the street and alleviate the incredible strain that is placed on Oxford Circus Tube station daily, as both Bond Street and particularly Tottenham Court Road Tubes will see a substantial increase in visitors post-Crossrail.
Harper Dennis Hobbs has forecast that Crossrail alone will boost the West End’s turnover from the circa £9bn achieved now to more than £11bn.
Pedestrianisation could increase turnover even further. Even if pedestrianisation has half the impact of Crosssrail – which would be a very conservative estimate – then turnover would hit £12bn and leave London’s West End firmly outstripping the likes of New York, Paris and Hong Kong as the world’s principal retail hub.
Amid the uncertainty of post-Brexit Britain, pedestrianisation is just what the West End needs.
- Jonathan De Mello is head of retail consultancy at Harper Dennis Hobbs