West End shopping devastated as climate change protestors block Oxford Circus
Climate change protestors under the Extinction Rebellion banner are continuing to disrupt a key London shopping area and with a threat on Wednesday to target the London Underground too, retailers are becoming increasingly worried that pre-Easter shopping could be devastated.
The protests have seen hundreds of arrests and a New West End Company estimate of the loss to the retail sector from the disruption is £12 million in just a few days. On Wednesday, New West End Company CEO Jace Tyrrell called for action from London’s mayor and the police.
He also said that some stores have seen a 25% fall in sales in the Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street area. And such a loss would be hard to swallow at the best of times, let alone during the most challenging period for UK retail in decades.
Tyrrell said: “West End businesses are deeply concerned by the continued disruption being caused in central London by the Extinction Rebellion protestors. While we fully support the right to peaceful protest, we do not believe that it is acceptable to block, for such a long period of time, some of London’s busiest streets. At a time when our high streets are struggling, this additional pressure is deeply damaging to London’s economy and reputation.
“We are calling on the Mayor of London and the Metropolitan Police to take control of the situation and enable companies and their employees to get back to business as usual ahead of the bank holiday weekend. The West End is resilient and we know people will still come out over the Easter period to enjoy the shopping and culture, but we want their experience here to be a positive one.”
In recent days, protestors have blocked both Oxford Circus and Marble Arch and a heavy police presence, plus the looming threat of violence, has made some shoppers unwilling to travel to the West End.
There are also fears than if the protests go on for too long, they could dent the all-important tourist trade that’s the lifeblood of many West End stores.
We’ve already seen in recent months how the yellow vest protests in Paris have caused physical damage to luxury stores in the French capital and how they have also led to ‘lost’ retail sales adding up to many times the £10 million amount London is looking at so far.
Earlier this year, tax-free payments specialist Planet said that Britain was enjoying extra tourist shopping due to visitors from many countries shifting their travel plans from France to the UK purely to avoid yellow vest protestors.
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