, the central London landlord that owns parts of Chinatown, Soho and Covent Garden, has reported that Londoners and domestic tourists are returning in growing numbers, bringing footfall back to about half the level before the pandemic.
The cafes, bars and restaurants in the capital’s West End are experiencing a strong recovery as visitors spend time in the area’s hospitality and leisure venues. Footfall has risen to 50-60% of pre-Covid levels.
However, centralis missing the presence of overseas tourists as well as office workers – who would usually visit the area’s shops, food outlets and other service businesses such as hairdressers during the week – and who are expected to return in larger numbers in the autumn.
The property firm said retailers renting space in its buildings had reported trade was improving, particularly at weekends, although this had been less buoyant than in hospitality businesses.
Shaftesbury, which owns 6.5 hectares (16 acres) of land in central, was upbeat in its assessment of trade, despite the continued slump in footfall in the West End, a district that has a low number of residents and relies on office workers and international visitors.
Footfall has returned more slowly in central London than most of the rest of the country, even after the governmentin England in July.
Athinktank showed worker footfall in the capital was just 15% of pre-Covid levels at the end of July, slightly lower than the average for 30 of the UK’s big cities, even though government guidance was changed on 19 July to drop the requirement for non-essential staff to work from home where possible.
Thechief executive, Brian Bickell, said: “The progress we have seen towards a return to normal patterns of activity over the period, and improving medium-term prospects, have been catalysts for a strong recovery in confidence and leasing activity, both for commercial and residential accommodation across our locations.
“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.”
Shaftesbury, whichin October to help it weather the pandemic, said its vacancy rate for properties that were available to let had fallen to 4.1% by 13 August, down from 8.4% at the end of March.