Oxford St Shops: We'll See off Malls; New Research Challenges a Recent Report Predicting That the West End Will Lose 10 per Cent of Trade within a Decade to Regional Retail Centres like Bluewater, Reports Property Correspondent Mira Bar-Hillel. the Standard Asked a Leading Figure from Each of the Two Centres to Go Shopping on the Other's Patch and Give Their Verdicts

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OXFORD STREET will hold its own against out-of-town shopping centres offering shoppers wide open spaces and free parking, a new survey reveals.

It had been feared that places like the Bluewater mega-mall in Kent could cost West End shops millions of customers fleeing city-centre stress, pollution and parking chaos; plus, if it is implemented, congestion charging.

However a survey from property expert Colliers CRE, which questioned around 40 shops with outlets in both Oxford Street and Bluewater, found London's world-famous shopping street still thriving. Retailers who took part ranged from John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Mothercare and Dixons to newcomers Zara, Muji and La Senza.

More than 60 per cent said they expected their Oxford Street trade and profits to improve over the next year.

Fewer than 10 per cent thought they would do worse. More than half said their West End premises were not big enough and they would increase sales if they expanded or opened for longer.

Richard Doidge of Colliers said: "We expected a much greater impact from Bluewater. We thought the established Oxford Street store would complain of its success being 'eaten into' by the shiny new rival, what we described as 'cannibalisation'. What we found was the Oxford Street stores doing very well, thank you."

He added: "We don't think congestion charges will make any difference.

A third of the shoppers are tourists, a third are people who work locally and the rest either live within the zone or come in on public transport."

Only 10 per cent of retailers said they now felt their flagship store was at Bluewater. Just over one in four said their Bluewater store was selling more or making more profit than its Oxford Street counterpart.

While 45 per cent said trade in Oxford Street had been adversely affected by Bluewater, almost 80 per cent said sales and profitability in the West End location were still as good or better than in other outlets, with the trading position actually improving over the past five years.

"The big department stores are fighting back by reinventing themselves successfully, like Selfridges," Mr Doidge said.

His view appears to be confirmed by the market in rents. In Oxford Street top rents have remained steady, ranging from [pound]380 per square foot to [pound]450 per square foot. At Bluewater they have fallen by more than 10 per cent over the past year to [pound]325 per square foot.

There is agreement, however, that Oxford Street needs improving, including more pedestrianisation and resistance to the "dumbing down" of stores. …


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