May 12, 2020
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West End issues reopening guidelines, discounting discouraged

May 12, 2020

London's West End – one of the premier global shopping districts – is preparing for reopening in the next few weeks with the New West End Company (NWEC) issuing strategy guidance and explaining some of the physical measures that will be taken to ensure safe shopping.

New West End Company

They include pavement markings to boost social distancing, queueing systems, and flexible hours. Footpaths across Oxford Street, Bond Street and Regent Street will be provided with clear markings to help visitors stay apart, while store visitor numbers will be closely managed with clearly marked waiting areas to the left of retailer entrances to avoid long queues. 

Guidance NWEC has issued also includes flexible opening hours between 11 am and 7 pm.

And it's important as well, given that a deluge of promotional prices are expected in UK retail once non-essential stores are allowed to reopen, that NWEC is advising against major discount events in West End stores in order to avoid a rush of shoppers to the area. It said there’s widespread agreement to hold back on discount sales to regulate footfall. Discount sales will be “kept online to avoid long queues and crowding”. 

NWEC represents more than 600 retail and leisure businesses in Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street. It said that the area has been through a deep clean and the installation of social distancing markers. And the new guidance has been put together with input from hundreds of businesses, both those based in the UK and many from abroad.

Given that the district in normal circumstances hosts around 150,000 workers – let alone the millions of shoppers it sees each year – it's understandable that NWEC has been working closely with Transport for London and Westminster City Council to effectively manage traffic to the area. 

Restrictions on air travel are expected to see reduced numbers of international visitors, while London’s workers and residents are encouraged to walk or cycle to rediscover the district, with the planned provision of additional bicycle parking and dedicated walking routes from key London hubs. 

Jace Tyrrell, CEO of NWEC, said: “Our priority is a safe reopening of the West End, and we continue to work collaboratively with West End businesses and local authorities to put in place clear operational and logistical plans to get back to work safely. Having acted early to protect public health, it is right that we set an example for the nation’s high streets in helping communities rebuild confidence in spending time together outside.”

Meave Wall, Stores Director at Selfridges added: “We are really encouraged by the reaction of local residents and the community to the re-opening of our Foodhall, and the dedication of our team in keeping our customers safe with new social distancing measures in place. Today’s guidelines provide helpful clarity for colleagues and customers as we continue to adapt our services to maintain public safety. Collectively adopting a consistent approach across the West End will help us all adopt the habits to keep each other safe over the coming months.”

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