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Oxford Street ‘will be boarded up in a year if nothing is done’

On a sweltering afternoon on Oxford Street, many pedestrians wear face masks despite the heat. But few of those strolling through London’s famous shopping mecca carry shopping bags.

The stores are eerily quiet, and the staff of several retailers explain that few customers come to make purchases despite huge discounts of 70 percent or more.

Near Marble Arch Tube Station, a number of shops are completely closed, including Boux Avenue, Russell & Bromley, Links of London and Adidas.

Visitors to London's West End, including Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street, were down 72 percent last month compared to July 2019

Visitors to London’s West End, including Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street, were down 72 percent last month compared to July 2019

Research prepared for The Mail on Sunday reveals the picture is similar for London’s top shopping destinations, which are recovering much more slowly than other major cities.

The new figures show that the number of visitors to the West End – including Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street – had decreased by 72 percent in the last month compared to July 2019.

Outside the capital, the situation was not so gloomy, but still frightening for retail chefs.

The average decline in cities in the UK, including Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Cardiff, was 62 percent – with the country’s main streets generally down 50 percent.

The figures from Springboard show pain across the board from general restrictions in shops where masks are mandatory, locker rooms are closed and make-up counters are out of order.

But they suggest that smaller towns and city centers have better luck persuading shoppers to return – with the fear factor seemingly greatest in the largest centers.

Ghostly: An abandoned Debenhams on Oxford Street in London

Ghostly: An abandoned Debenhams on Oxford Street in London

Ghostly: An abandoned Debenhams on Oxford Street in London

The research will raise concerns about the future of some of the country’s most iconic stores.

Retailers said the situation is so bad now that parts of Oxford Street – where retailers such as Selfridges, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and House of Fraser operate flagship stores – could be boarded up within a year unless the government takes radical action. .

Clearly, lobby groups have warned government ministers that 200 of London’s best stores will close in the next 12 months unless more action is taken to help the sector.

A supervisor at a major retailer said: “It’s just not feasible for us to operate in London unless something happens soon. This is a very big problem. ‘

Shopping: Grace Riley and Emma Beevers

Shopping: Grace Riley and Emma Beevers

Shopping: Grace Riley and Emma Beevers

The bosses said the government needs to create a more nuanced tax regime to accommodate the changing demand landscape and replace corporate rates – a real estate tax that’s about half the cost of a store’s rental.

“After the corporate rate holiday ends in April, Oxford Street will be boarded up from end to end if left unchecked,” added the director.

Shoppers seem to prefer more convenient centers where it is possible to travel quickly, park and visit a handful of shops in a short amount of time – none of which are available in central London.

Diane Wehrle, insight director for retail analyst Springboard, blamed shoppers’ prudence and the collapse of tourism. But she added, “Many people continue to work from home, which deprives city centers of daytime visits, which is so important because it accounts for two-thirds of all visitor numbers.”

On Oxford Street, Grace Riley, 22, from Clapham, said she had decided to come shopping after her holiday in Portugal was canceled. Her friend Emma Beevers, 22, added: ‘It’s normally packed in this part of Oxford Street [outside Selfridges] and you should avoid people on the sidewalk, but it’s much quieter than usual. ‘

Janet Gilbert, 71, and Linda Lambert, 77, had traveled from Bexleyheath to central London by train, then walked to the West End to avoid the Tube.

They didn’t mind wearing masks on the train and in stores, but said they felt uncomfortable at times because some stores were warm inside, adding, ‘We’ve been to four or five stores and it’s quiet. Debenhams was very quiet – it was fine to go in, but not many people were there. ‘

Abandoned: Oxford Street in late April when shops were still closed

Abandoned: Oxford Street in late April when shops were still closed

Abandoned: Oxford Street in late April when shops were still closed

Rachel Cracknell, 29, who was with her friend Hilary, 28, said, ‘Normally this would have been more to browse and socialize, but it’s just not that much fun right now.’

Another customer, Julia, 61, from Walthamstow, with her daughter Lucy, 16, said: ‘We immediately noticed that three or four of the stores [near Marble Arch tube station] was closed. I used to work here and it was really buzzing. But now I feel very sorry for all companies. ‘

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