New $114 mln plans to revive London’s Oxford St: New footpaths, crosswalks, greenery

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Oxford Street has long been one of Europe’s leading shopping destinations and a key part of the UK retail sector. Since the pandemic, the area in the heart of London’s West End shopping district has seen visitor numbers decline and major stores close down. With an ambitious regeneration plan in the works by the local council and many leading retailers, that is all about to change.

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After big names like Top Shop and Debenhams shut their doors, while other lesser-known retailers sprung up, the local council decided on plans to spend £90 million ($114 million) to revamp the entire area.

Under the plans, a dozen more pedestrian crossings will added
The area near Claridge’s Hotel will be pedestrianized with seating and trees. The streets around Selfridges will have added footpaths and upgrades, making them safer and greener.

“You can tell it’s very busy on a normal afternoon here in Oxford Street. So what we really want to do is widen the pavement, reduce the carriage by giving our customers more space, more space to move around and enjoy the experience,” Dee Corsi, New West End Company CEO, told Al Arabiya English. “[We want to add] More trees, more greenery, more lighting, more benches. And what you truly expect from a world-class destination.”

The plans also include a new cycle lane near Bond Street tube station, allowing for safer crossing. Grosvenor Square will see its pavements widened with more greenery and additional cycle and e-scooter parking.

Oxford Street bouncing back

Visitor numbers are still about 20 percent lower than before the pandemic but have increased by about 12 percent over the past year.

Investors are also betting on Oxford Street bouncing back and according to BNP Paribas, UK retail is once again gaining traction among international investors.

The bank says about £100 million ($127 million) was invested in the sector in 2023, a figure expected to be 3 or 4 times higher this year.

Retailers are also coming back to the area. HMV returned in November last year, and IKEA is set to open its first High Street store on the site previously occupied by Topshop.

“Retail has been changing for a long time. If you look at any High Street in the UK, but fortunately, we’re leading the evolution. So yes, we’ve lost some of the older stores [that] have been here for a long time, but we’ve got new ones coming.” Corsi told Al Arabiya English. “We’re so excited to welcome IKEA later this year which I think really proves their commitment to Oxford Street and to and to the West End. And we’ve got other brands doing the same. Pandora has opened their third store on Oxford Street. So the commitment is there, it’s changing and it’s changing for the positive.”

The revamp also coincides with visa changes, making it easier and cheaper for GCC nations to visit the UK. Meanwhile, a campaign to reinstate VAT-free shopping is gaining traction with reports that the government is considering bringing it back, ending what some consider a tourist tax that costs the UK economy £11 billion ($13.9 billion) a year.

Oxford Street has been a destination for international shoppers and a key revenue source for London’s retail sector for decades. It’s important to the city that Oxford Street does well, with hopes that these new plans will once again revive the street and the surrounding areas.

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