The New West End Company (NWEC) – which represents more than 600 retail and leisure businesses in London’s West End – has announced its plans for a “safe and sustainable” reopening of shops in the district following a deep clean and installation of social distancing.
The guidelines have been designed to complement the latest government advice which says non-essential retail could begin to reopen in early June. They have been assembled by New West End Company to reflect input from hundreds of UK and overseas organisations, prioritising the safety for those living and working in and around the West End.
The guidance includes flexible opening hours between 11am – 7pm and agreement to hold back on discount sales to regulate footfall and queues.
Jace Tyrrell, CEO of New West End Company, said: “Our priority is a safe reopening of the West End, and we continue to work collaboratively with West End businesses and local authorities to put in place clear operational and logistical plans to get back to work safely.
“Having acted early to protect public health, it is right that we set an example for the nation’s high streets in helping communities rebuild confidence in spending time together outside.”
As the West End’s 600 businesses prepare for a phased return of the district’s 150,000 workers, New West End Company is also working closely with Transport for London and Westminster City Council to effectively manage foot traffic.
Footpaths across Oxford Street, Bond Street and Regent Street will be provided with clear markings to help visitors observe social distancing, while store visitor numbers will be closely managed with clearly marked waiting areas to the left of retailer entrances to avoid long-queues.
As business operating restrictions lift, retailers have been advised to respect responsible promotional strategies, with discounting and sales kept online to avoid long queues and crowding.
Restrictions on air travel are expected to see reduced numbers of international visitors, while London’s workers and residents are encouraged to walk or cycle to rediscover the district, with the planned provision of additional bicycle parking and dedicated walking routes from key London hubs.
Meave Wall, stores director at Selfridges, commented: “We are really encouraged by the reaction of local residents and the community to the reopening of our foodhall, and the dedication of our team in keeping our customers safe with new social distancing measures in place.
“Today’s guidelines provide helpful clarity for colleagues and customers as we continue to adapt our services to maintain public safety. Collectively adopting a consistent approach across the West End will help us all adopt the habits to keep each other safe over the coming months.”