Resilient Londoners summoned their “fighting spirit” to defy remarkably cold and windy Bank Holiday weather as shops and restaurants said spending was much stronger than feared.
The coldest early May Bank holiday on record ended with heavy rain and strong gusts but traders said their customers were determined to enjoy the first long weekend since lockdown ended last month.
Restaurateur Anthony Demetre, said diners and drinkers at his Kings Cross bistro Vermuteria were buffeted but unbowed.
”The fighting spirit was called into play. It is a big open space and it can be a real battle when the wind is blowing but we had heaters and blankets and people just layered up,” he said.
“Even last night it was really blowing a gale and we were going to call it a night at 8pm but a couple of younger people said ‘oh come on just let us finish our drinks’ and we ended up staying open until 9pm.”
Amy Corbin, co-owner of Peckham bar and restaurant Kudu, said: “We were fully booked all weekend at Kudu and the weather really didn’t seem to affect people who had reservations. We saw a slight dip in walk-ins for our no-reservation bar Smokey Kudu, but otherwise it was a good three days of trading.”
Des Gunewardena, chief executive of fine dining group D&D London, said: “It has been another strong week’s trading for us despite the colder weather .
“Even yesterday though we dropped 20 to 25 per cent because of cancellations, those who did not cancel had a great time and spent well. And bookings for May continue to look strong.”
Brian Bickell, boss of Chinatown and Soho landlord Shaftesbury said: “The holiday weekend has seen a busy and encouraging start to the revival of the West End and the next phases – fully reopening hospitality, cultural and nightlife attractions and the return of office workers– will provide the conditions for its sustained recovery.”
Clive Watson, chairman of the City Pub Group, said: “The British pub goers have once again proved their resilience and have visited the pubs come rain or sunshine- be it London, Bristol, Cardiff or Brighton, fantastic sales this bank holiday weekend.”
Helen Brocklebank, chief executive of luxury brands business group Walpole, said:” It was a promising weekend, reinforcing the consumer focus on high value ‘reward’ items we’ve seen since the ‘unlock’ began.
“Slightly chilly weather was good for retail, and didn’t put off people who’d made the effort to book a smart restaurant terrace - we seem determined to treat and meet regardless. The winners are the super iconic, highly desirable brands who have made a big effort through the lockdown to connect with their customers and make them dream. But there are some really big winners and the spending is very encouraging indeed.”
Top retail brands said that while footfall is down around 55 per cent on 2019 spending is only 20 per cent lower, pointing to heavy purchasing of more expensive items such as jewellery, watches and handbags with six figure sums being spent in some cases.
A spokesperson for Westminster council said:“This weekend was slightly quieter due to the wet weather, however Saturday was still very busy
“It’s great to see our West End hospitality venues and businesses open again but safety remains our priority.
“We will keep monitoring the situation and make adjustments to our services, for example street cleaning, if necessary.”