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The West End Reopens With A Bang — But Normality Is A Long Way Off

Covent Garden

The partial reopening of London's retail and restaurant heartland, the West End, is well underway, with footfall in the district leaping compared to the lockdown doldrums. But according to a new quick take from a real estate research firm, pre-lockdown reality still remains some way off. 

In a note, London Retail: Sizzling Hot or Fizzling Out, Green Street gave an insight into a tour its researchers took of the West End, focusing on the portfolios of CapCo, which owns Covent Garden, and Shaftesbury, which owns Carnaby Street, Chinatown and Seven Dials.

Green Street noted that although data from Springboard showed West End footfall was up 90% in the week to 17 April, anecdotal evidence from chatting to retailers and restaurateurs shows footfall is still far below 2019 levels, in some cases 50% below. Retail sales from stores are also nowhere near back to normal, Green Street reported being told. 

At Covent Garden, CapCo has created a huge al fresco dining area, with all-weather seating for up to 800 diners, and many restaurants in Shaftesbury’s portfolio have also created outdoor seating areas. But even when indoor dining is allowed to resume on 17 May, seating capacity will remain about 25% below normal because of social distancing requirements, Green Street said. 

The lack of tourists in the West End is making it harder for retailers and restaurants to get back up to speed, and Green Street noted that while tenants have been working hard to ensure that customers feel safe going into stores and restaurants, the district's office workers also need to return in force to further aid the recovery of the stores and restaurants that need their business.