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Carnaby and Soho retailers react to reopening

Tom Bottomley
14 April 2021

Assessing the first day of reopening of non-essential stores that was Monday, 12 April, 2021, brands and retailers in and around Central London’s Carnaby Street and Soho give their verdict on how it was on the West End frontline

RS No 9

Michael O’Donoghue, Store Director, RS No.9 Carnaby

RS No.9, 9 Carnaby Street

It’s amazing to be back and to see businesses reopening and able to trade again. There is a real community among retailers in the Soho and Carnaby area. All shops are championing social distancing rules, making sure that shoppers are able to visit stores safely and confidently. There was a very positive feeling among the retailers and shoppers alike. I spent most of the day catching up with locals and regulars who’ve been patiently waiting to return to their favourite stores.

We are looking forward to strong spring/summer business as confidence grows among shoppers and lockdown restrictions are lifted. We have our SS21 range dropping in a matter of weeks, which features some really exciting products.

We are also continuing to work on some really exciting new collaborations for 2021, partnering with some amazing brands. We currently have five new apparel styles in store, as a bit of a teaser for the rest of the SS21 collection - which drops late April. We're also offering up to 30% off our AW20 range for a couple of weeks, before we launch the new collection.

Oliver Spencer

Tom Bodaly, General Manager, Oliver Spencer

Oliver Spencer, 81 Berwick Street

We’re certainly optimistic and it’s great to see our fellow neighbour traders and some of our regular customers in the store, or on their way to or from getting their haircut!

Soho has always been about people and community, and you can feel the camaraderie in the air.

We’ve added some more lifestyle elements to the Berwick Street store, so you can now shop a host of our partner brands, like camping and outdoors brand Snow Peak, gardening tools from Niwaki, luggage from Porter-Yoshida & Co and sustainable footwear from Yogi, to name a few.


Fiona Sainty, MAC UK & Ireland Vice President and General Manager

MAC, 30 Great Marlborough Street

We had a great day on the first day back, which shows incredible promise for the easing of lockdown - with a strong return for footfall in-line with pre-lockdown levels. A great result and testament to the incredible team and safety measures we have put in place to bring back the consumer with confidence.

We had forecasted generous return and were pleased to see our hopes were rewarded on day one. We’re seeing consumers coming back with a celebration atmosphere, more experimentation with colour in makeup rather than just the safe neutrals – ‘skinimalism’ is on its way out and ‘makesimum’ is the future!

There’s been a real buzz in the air, and the team were thrilled to be back and welcoming people of all ages, races and genders into our flagship Carnaby store. This was also seen across the country in our other standalone stores and counters, as we enjoy a return to the high street.

We are looking forward to seeing the return of consumer confidence, but more than that we’re also really looking forward to seeing the return of the joy of makeup! Being able to celebrate being back together with bright, self-expressive colours and a vibrancy we have missed over the last year.

We are welcoming our customers back with a free gift – our ‘Spring Favourites’ bundle – when you spend £55-plus in stores. Our iconic in-store services are back this week within government guidelines, and we also have some incredible new store features which leverage our ‘Virtual Try On’ technology with scannable QR Codes.

Wax London

Richard Singh, Co-founder, Wax London

Wax London, 28 Foubert’s Place

All in all we had a strong first day back. The shop was busy throughout the day, with peaks when we opened at 11am and also around mid-afternoon. Customers were very happy to be back out again, with a few people coming to try things on after seeing them online, some liking what they saw in the windows, and a few coming from far and wide to see our first standalone store after discovering Wax London in lockdown!

The reopening was in line with expectations. Carnaby and the surrounding streets were very busy throughout, with Newburgh Street getting busier and busier throughout the day, especially when the pub opened!

It feels so good to be back. We'd been waiting patiently for the day to come, and it didn't disappoint. I would say customers were also delighted to be back out shopping again, and there was a real buzz throughout the day and into the evening.

Quite a few customers commented on the perils of solely shopping online and how nice it was to visit the shops once again. It’s good to have a mix of both and it bodes well for the store over the coming months.

We have a cautiously optimistic view on the rest of the season, as we have been doing really well online with SS21 so we hope that translates in store. With plenty of new products to add over the coming weeks, we are hopeful that it will be a successful season.

We also have new product categories in store, such as sunglasses and swimming shorts, which we are excited about, and we will be running various events over the coming months in line with guidelines, of course. As the season progresses, and with the hope of no restrictions by the end of June, a Wax London shop summer party is very much on the cards too!


Peter Oyediran, European Flagship Manager, Columbia Sportswear Company

Columbia, 39 Carnaby Street

The first day back was super exciting to return! Carnaby Street was busy for the first time since December, and it was amazing to see. The area was fully alive with customers filling the street again, and the new outdoor tables and benches have been very much in use. Reuniting the team here and finally being able to work together after so much time was great.

I think the amount of time we have had now in lockdowns in London has made people ready to be out again. Hopefully, as the season goes on, we can start seeing some tourism return to the area as well.

We have launched a brand new range for summer and, to encourage sales, we have a special reopening offer - buy two items and get 25% off.

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