High West End rents 'crippling retailers'

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The Independent Online

The West End of London may be a Mecca for shoppers but retailers are now struggling to make a profit because of crippling rents.

The West End of London may be a Mecca for shoppers but retailers are now struggling to make a profit because of crippling rents.

The area is no longer one of the country's top ten retail locations, according to a survey released yesterday that rates Liverpool as the most profitable place for shop owners.

The report, by Donaldsons property consultants, claims rents have become so expensive in the West End that many businesses are better advised to locate elsewhere despite the millions of consumers who flock to central London every year. Rents per square foot can be as much as £475 on Oxford Street. Even the City and affluent areas such as Knightsbridge offer cheaper alternatives.

The report ranks shopping centresby the rate of rental growth over the past three years, which shows the eagerness of retailers to lease there. Between 1997 and 2000, rents in town centres rose by a national average of 5.6 per cent. In London's West End, the figure was 8.2 per cent, ranking it 12th nationally – and nowhere near Liverpool's annual 11.4 per cent growth.

But Oxford Street is still the most expensive retail base in the country by a wide margin. "Oxford Street has expanded," said Matthew Allanson, an associate at Donaldsons. "But out-of-town centres like Bluewater [in Kent] and Thurrock [in Essex] could have taken the heat out of it a little."

Moves by fashion retailers to open in Liverpool have enabled the city to compete with rivals such as Manchester. The latter has seen a renaissance of its inner-city shopping area since an IRA bomb in 1996 but it was still a big loser on the list.

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