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West End shoppers return, but favour the weekend

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Shoppers are returning to high streets again, especially at weekends, a real estate company based around London’s West End has said.

Shaftesbury said the retailers in its buildings have reported improving trade, focused on the weekend.

Weekly footfall is now at between 50% and 60% of its pre-pandemic levels, Shaftesbury said.

It put the tentative recovery down to the return not just of Londoners, but of people coming to the capital for the day to go shopping, or tourists visiting London from elsewhere in the country.

Chief executive Brian Bickell said: “I’m pleased to report positive momentum in recent months, with footfall and trading recovering, an improving operating environment and significantly reduced vacancy across our villages.

“We expect that early autumn will see a return of the West End’s exceptionally large office-based working population, which has always been an important contributor to our local weekday economy.”

He added: “The momentum of the last four months is providing a sound platform for the continuing revival of the West End in the important months ahead, leading up to Christmas and into the new year, and the prospects for a return to pre-pandemic patterns of life and activity.”

The improvements can be seen in the rent that Shaftesbury was able to collect in recent months.

In the three months to June 30, the company collected 51% of contracted rent, compared with just 40% between January and March this year.

It is also filling more space in the high streets.

At the end of March, 8.4% of Shaftesbury’s sites lay vacant, but by the end of July nearly half of this space had been filled and the figure had fallen to 4.6%.

Shares in the business rose by as much as 1.4% following the news on Monday morning. However they quickly settled down after an initial spurt, and were up only 0.4% a little while later.

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