July 15, 2020 / 11:26 PM / in a month

Visitor numbers in London's West End down 73% on year since lockdown eased

FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians walk past a sign of a shop window in the West End, in London, Britain December 27, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

LONDON (Reuters) - Visitors to London’s West End shopping and entertainment district are down 73% year-on-year since lockdown restrictions were eased on June 15, an industry lobby group said on Thursday, warning the lack of trade was putting 50,000 jobs at risk.

Britain’s retailers, already struggling with high rents, business taxes, tight margins and online competition, were particularly hammered by the lockdown. Thousands of job losses have already been announced.

The New West End Company said that without further government action, businesses in the area were facing 5 billion pounds ($6.3 billion) of lost sales. It represents 600 retail, restaurant, hotel and property owners across one of the world’s top shopping and leisure destinations — encompassing Oxford Street, Bond Street, Regent Street and Mayfair.

The group said the West End was faring much worse than the rest of the UK, highlighting data from market researcher Springboard which showed footfall levels in UK high streets as a whole down 57.2% compared with June last year.

“What this data shows, is that city centres, significantly central London, are being held back by a series of restrictions, including uncertainty surrounding returning to work and the use of public transport,” New West End Company said.

It called on clarity from the government to instil consumer confidence and wants a reform of tax free shopping.

Last week finance minister Rishi Sunak said the government would fund discounts on eating out on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August, and also slashed value-added tax for the hospitality and domestic tourism sector.

Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Catherine Evans

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