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Have Crossrail and Coronavirus crushed Oxford Street?

Tom Shearsmith
10 August 2020

It has been a difficult few months for London’s Oxford Street, with furthers delays to Crossrail announced and lockdowns caused by Coronavirus - footfall and estate counts have been reduced.

Formally the premier shopping destination for shoppers and tourists, most fashion retailers up and down the legendary street are now struggling to pull in visitors.

Oxford Street continues to lose its once iconic businesses, HMV, TM Lewin, Vero Moda, Aldo and many other businesses have closed retail stores entirely, or relocated since 2010.

Over 20 souvenir gift shops or American candy stores now occupy once-prime retail space.

Crossrail, now known as the Elizabeth Line, was promised to "not only deliver major new stations in the West End but transform the areas around the stations". Over 12 years since work officially began, no business can report any positive impact.

In 2010, New West End Company said Crossrail works on the east end of Oxford Street near Tottenham Court Road tube station had resulted in a 20% to 25% drop off in footfall over a nine months period.

The only strong sign of regeneration down this end of Oxford Street appeared in 2012, when Primark built a four-floor, 82,400 sq ft flagship store.

With three Crossrail sites along Oxford Street (Tottenham Court Road, Tottenham Court Road's second exit at Dean Street and Bond Street) and a total of over 15 years between the project starting and completion, has enough been done to encourage businesses to move to Oxford Street? contacted several businesses in the area and could find no suggestions of any schemes, incentives or compensation.

Among the multimillion pound developments taking place near Oxford Street, a joint project between Crossrail and Derwent London will see 500,000 sq ft of premium retail, office and residential accommodation above the ticket halls at the corner of Charing Cross Road and Oxford Street.

The Outernet, Tottenham Court Road

The Outernet development, next to Oxford Street (Charing Cross Road).

Property developer Derwent London announced last month that it had already signed a deal to sell some of the projects property to Sir Lloyd Dorfman’s family property interests for £40.5m - months before its expected 2021 completion.

With the project running over two years late, a worrying future for the high street and a lack of international visitors for the foreseeable - the project proposals from Crossrail no longer stand the test of time.

Dorfman said that he had “great faith” in the future of the London business property market, despite uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Crossrail's impact on Oxford Street isn't the only problem - the rise of homeworking due to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to fears that the long-term prospects for commercial properties, including retail, may have been permanently dented.

Last month West End landlord Great Portland Estates announced it had collected only 74% of rent due from its tenants over the last three months.

Whether this proves to be Oxford Street’s downfall remains to be seen. For now one of the world’s most famous shopping destination is seeing reduced visitor numbers and a lack of businesses revitalising the area – there is hope for Oxford Street, but it needs direction.

When COVID-19 loosens its grip on the world and Crossrail is finally complete, the famous street could turn a new page.

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