A perfect storm of rising costs, waning consumer confidence and Brexit uncertainty has hit UK retail, putting businesses and investors under increasing pressure to adapt and ride the wave of change.
For London’s retail and leisure heartland, the West End, in which New West End Company represents 600 businesses, the past year has been challenging, with delays to new infrastructure such as the £16bn Crossrail rail service and investment to transform the Oxford Street District, in addition to the major structural changes taking place in the sector.
Despite these challenges, the West End and Mayfair as a district continues to attract millions of visitors from across the globe and turns over £9bn each year. If we look beyond Brexit, 2020 will be a game-changing year for our district.
Public realm and infrastructure developments will completely transform the built environment and the 60 million additional annual visits expected via Crossrail will provide ample investment opportunities for existing businesses and investors looking to London’s top retail and leisure destination for new growth.
Knowing how to target these customers is key for our businesses. That is why, as the collective voice of our district, we have partnered with Springwise, the global source for innovation intelligence, to investigate the upcoming trends and innovations that retailers, restaurants and hotels will need to know about in the next few years.
The next big thing
We have scoured the globe to find out what the next big thing will be in retail and leisure – whether that be the way augmented reality is providing a personalised experience in stores; how accurate customer data is being harnessed for the 48% of consumers that want more customisation; or how transparent and sustainable operations are becoming increasingly important for consumers.
Innovations such as Pavegen’s walkways, which convert steps into customer rewards; the Wisher app, which notifies users when they are near an item on a friend’s wish list; or Nike’s 3D body scanning machines have already entered bricks-and-mortar stores to enhance shopper experiences.
In the UK, we must also be tuned into emerging international markets such as India, with its growing middle class, who are predicted to generate more trade across the country beyond 2020. Over the past two years in the West End, Indian visitor spend has increased by 40%, putting the nation in our top 10 non-EU spenders for the first time.
The year 2020 is going to be the start of a new chapter for London’s West End. To ensure its future is bright, we need public and private sectors to work together to encourage innovation and establish London’s West End as the number-one retail and leisure destination in the world.
Jace Tyrrell is chief executive of New West End Company