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Footfall rising in the West End as workers start returning to the office

Lauretta Roberts
03 September 2021

Footfall in London's West End is rising steadily as workers start to return to the office, prompting the New West End Company's CEO Jace Tyrrell to call for more to be done to encourage a return to office working to help the post-pandemic economic recovery.

Data from the New West End Company shows a 12 percentage point improvement in footfall between the first and last weeks in August (compared with 2019 figures), with footfall increasing steadily by five percentage points week on week during the month. In the final week of the month, footfall was down -39% on 2019’s figures compared to -51% in the first week of August.

The New West End company, which represents 600 business across the West End, also carried out a survey which revealed that 91% of office workers wish to return to the office in some capacity (this rises to 95% among younger workers). However three quarters of workers say they will work at home for part of the week.

The biggest driver for wanting to return to the office is the social aspect with 15% of workers missing this (and 16% of younger workers), with 15% also saying they felt more productive in an office environment.

Responding to the data, Tyrrell said: “An increasing number of office workers are beginning to return to the West End now that restrictions have been lifted, but we need more businesses to heed the wishes of their employees in order to stimulate the capital's recovery. 91% of those we have surveyed want to return to the office in some capacity, citing a longing for the social aspects of office life as the main driver. It is precisely these social outlets – including the West End's world-famous restaurants and bars – that need custom from returning office workers if they are to survive and subsequently thrive.

"The last 18 months have undoubtedly forever changed the environments in which people work, but more must be done to encourage workers to return in some capacity. Whether it leads to a quick trip to the shops or a long-overdue lunch with colleagues, every returning office worker will play a vital role in the high street and economy's recovery. We are already seeing a steady rise in customer footfall, up 8% last week compared with 3% at the beginning of August, but it's time that the corporate world started to match this increasing consumer confidence. Only then will we see the return of a typically vibrant, profitable and exciting West End."

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