Oxford Street is truly on the cusp of a new dawn.
The Oxford Street Programme, delivering much needed public realm enhancements, has now entered consultation phase. We are one step closer to a sustainable future for the nation’s high-street, and securing its status as an iconic retail and leisure destination for years to come.
Like many high streets across the U.K., Oxford Street was impacted by the pandemic - changes to the retail landscape were accelerated, and the mix of occupiers on the street evolved rapidly. The pandemic also underlined that the public realm was a critical component of visitors’ experience of a street, whether they worked, lived or shopped there.
And now the stage has been set for Oxford Street’s transformation. The Elizabeth Line, just over a year old, has already welcomed 73 million passengers to Oxford Street stations since opening. There also continues to be significant developer appetite for a presence on the street, with ten core developments promising up one million square feet of mixed use accommodation upon completion.
Brands too are keen to capitalise on Oxford Street’s position as the shop window for the nation. This is evident from the diversity of those who have opened or are set to open in the coming months; from returners like HMV, to fast-growth online brands, like Manière de Voir, who has chosen Oxford Street for its first physical store.
This is true even of brands who already have a presence – Reserved and Pandora have increased their investment to open up new stores at Oxford Street East which complement their existing offering. Others are using the street as a test-bed for new retail concepts: The Fragrance Shop described its soon-to-be flagship ‘experiential’ store on Oxford Street as a “defining moment for the business”.
The Oxford Street Programme therefore comes at a pivotal moment. We know from experience that public realm programmes – such as those we delivered in partnership with Westminster City Council at Hanover Square or along Bond Street – can have a significant impact on footfall, spend and overall visitor experience. The proposed plans for Oxford Street, which include wider footways, improved pedestrian comfort, and additional greening and seating, present a long-term, achievable and exciting vision to work towards.
Of course, all of this takes time. We have the momentum, appetite and infrastructure – now we must deliver Oxford Street’s once-in-a-lifetime transformation. The dawn for the street is just over the horizon, and in five years’ time we’ll be taking in the sunshine on a very different Oxford Street.