Occupier confidence in the West End is beginning to return with some existing retailers moving to better locations or superior-configured stores, according to Savills research.

Mobility across London reached its highest levels in the second quarter since the start of the pandemic. However, average weekly footfall is still 56 per cent lower than pre-Covid levels due to low overseas arrivals and continued homeworking.

Savills commercial research director Marie Hickey said: “The vast majority of demand is currently generated by domestic day-trippers, and so locations offering a blended retail and leisure mix are witnessing higher footfall recovery. Oxford Circus and Bond Street, with their proximity to Soho and Mayfair respectively, have therefore experienced journey recovery outpacing the West End average.”

Soho’s pedestrianisation has helped pick up in occupational demand with new openings including women’s fashion chain Hype and US sports retailer NBA Store with flagship stores on Foubert and Carnaby streets. British cosmetics brand War Paint for Men also opened their first men’s make-up store last month in Carnaby Street.

Greater rental affordability has helped with central London average prime rates for zone A currently at 2012 levels.

“As a result, we have seen deal activity across a number of large prime units in the West End,” said Ms Hickey.

Fashion giants secure prime spots

Mango has taken the former GAP store, next door to their previous store, on Oxford Street. The 15,000 sq ft space will be the UK debut of their new store concept and is set to open by this September. Superdry is relocating to a 28,000 sq ft store opposite Bond Street station on Oxford Street, with Uniqlo/Theory moving into their 57,000 sq ft former store on Regent Street.

However, vacancies across prime West End properties have developed through the second quarter to just over 14 per cent compared with 9.5 per cent in the first quarter. Savills said government support packages should mitigate any further hikes in vacancies with the extension of the commercial eviction moratorium until March 2022.

The property agent predicts the lifting of quarantine for fully vaccinated visitors from the US and some European countries should boost footfall and sales over the coming months.

Brokers Hank Zarihs Associates said development finance lenders were keen to offer funds for the construction of retail outlets close to good transport links and leisure facilities.

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Former apprentice to head up the Construction Industry Training Board, CITB
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Shiraz Khan