Nervous Shoppers Snubbing West End; CITY BRIEFING

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Byline: JANE PADGHAM

THOUSANDS of shoppers could be permanently lost from the West End because of worries about terrorism and the lure of out-of-town shopping centres.

Since the July bombings, nervous consumers are flocking to big sub urban shopping malls such as Bluewater, Lakeside and Brent Cross.

Amanda Aldridge, acting head of retail at KPMG, said it is a trend that may continue even after central London security fears fade.

"When people change their shopping habits, they may discover that the alternative destination is one which they prefer because it is cheaper and easier," she said.

Stuffed with state-of-the-art stores outside the congestion charge zone and with plenty of car parking space, out-of-town malls offer an attractive alternative to the expensive West End.

Natasha Burton, marketing executive at retail analyst FootFall, said: "The danger is that when habits change, it's very hard to change them back again.

"There are signs that events such as switching on the Christmas lights are bringing people back to the West End and that could mean confidence returns, but shopper BY JANE PADGHAM Business Reporter numbers are still down on a year ago."

Several recent reports indicate that central London retailers are failing to experience the pickup in High Street spending enjoyed by stores elsewhere.

The London Retail Consortium (LRC) reported a 2.3% drop in likefor-like sales in the capital against a 0.2% UK decline. Departments stores group John Lewis said that while its total UK sales were up 0.3% on a year ago in October, sales at its flagship Oxford Street store were down 8.5%.

A spokeswoman for the LRC said: "While retail sales in central London have improved significantly since the summer, they are still lagging behind the rest of the UK.

"The attempts by the Greater London Authority, Visit London and the Metropolitan Police to claw back visitors have been laudable, but unfortunately not a magic wand solution. …