Crossrail benefits are already starting to show with station revamps kick-starting the rejuvenation of the West End shopping experience.
Now is the time of year for Christmas trading and parties, and a time to look to the future.
I miss being involved with department stores, particularly now as the lead-up to Christmas is such an exciting trading period.
Christmas buzz in store
In December the store is full of customers in the mood for buying and not just browsing.
With the intricate and decorous window displays, internal decorations and flamboyant merchandising, there’s vibrancy at Christmas that outshines the promotions at other times of the year. The store looks at its most glamorous and shows the best in offline retail.
Although the staff are exhausted by the long hours, somehow the adrenaline keeps everyone going, even into the whirlwind of Christmas parties – and I have to say that at Selfridges the staff parties were legendary.
I’m writing this on a train returning from the Boohoo.com Christmas party in Manchester.
The party exemplified everything that is exciting about the business: young people dressed up for the occasion, positive in their outlook, ambitious for the company
Although a social context, in a way the party exemplified everything that is exciting about the business: young people making a real effort to get dressed up for the occasion, positive in their outlook, ambitious for the company. If only you could bottle these attributes and sell them to some of the more lacklustre retailers.
In May we witnessed an election of which the expected outcome was another era of coalition. The surprising result of an outright Conservative win has definitely enabled the business community to be more certain in making key investment decisions.
However, it is yet to really show any dramatic change in consumer spending, which continues to grow in total by miniscule amounts. As we look towards 2016, this modest increase is likely to continue with online still growing at the expense of offline retail.
But there is a development that will improve access to the offline shopping experience in London, by bringing hundreds of thousands of additional shoppers to the West End.
We are now only three years away from the completion of Crossrail.
After years of construction disruption, we are beginning to see parts of new stations emerging. Tottenham Court Road station, which was always very congested with confined spaces, low ceilings and narrow walkways, this month opened a new section with spacious halls giving a much more open environment.
Thankfully, Transport for London has also taken the trouble to restore most of the Eduardo Paolozzi mosaics. (By the way, why is it that there is so little public art in our transport stations?)
The new Tottenham Court Road station will completely rejuvenate eastern Oxford Street, which historically was always the poorer relation to the western section.
The eastern end suffers from having no department store following the closure of Bourne & Hollingsworth in 1983 and only having shop with small retail footprints.
At Bond Street station the new exit under construction on the north side of Oxford Street will help with access to the major stores, almost all of which are located on that side of the street.
This is a transformational development to help future generations of shoppers and retailers enjoy their Christmases.
- Peter Williams is chairman of Boohoo.com and a former chief executive of Selfridges