Westminster Council reveals plan to transform 'national embarrassment' Oxford Street

  • Tap above to watch video report by Carolyn Sim

London's world-famous Oxford Street, once branded a "national embarrassment" by the boss of Marks & Spencer, could get a much-needed revamp.

Westminster Council wants to reinvigorate what was widely seen as the shopping jewel of the West End but has become renowned for souvenir and sweet shops.

Recently Stuart Machin, chief executive of M&S, said Oxford Street was an embarrassment with a "proliferation of tacky candy stores, antisocial behaviour and footfall remaining in the doldrums, 11% down on pre-pandemic levels".

The council wants to give the entire street which stretches 1.8km from Marble Arch to Tottenham Court Road a facelift to attract more visitors.

"The West End constantly needs to adapt if it is to continue draw to shoppers from around the country and around the world," said Cllr Geoff Barraclough from Westminster City Council.

"We have great brands such as Selfridges and John Lewis, and we’re pleased that, IKEA and HMV will both be opening on Oxford Street later this year.

"But we need to innovate and ensure we can offer a top-class experience for everyone. "I want Oxford Street to be a place local communities, residents and visitors and businesses can feel pride in. New West End Company and Westminster City Council have a long track record in successful collaboration and are looking forward to working in partnership to keep Oxford Street thriving."

HMV store on Oxford Street in London pictured in 2018 Credit: PA

In April HMV confirmed it would reopen its historic Oxford Street store later this year after a four-year absence. The music retailer shut the flagship store in 2019 after tumbling into administration before a rescue takeover by Canadian Doug Putman’s Sunrise Records. The site, where HMV opened its first shop in 1921, has been operating as an American sweet shop since the closure. It is understood that HMV signed a deal to replace the current occupant, whose lease is set to expire in around six months. HMV said the return to 363 Oxford Street was the “latest sign of a dramatic turnaround” after collapsing four years ago, with the firm bouncing back to profit last year. The store will feature the company’s new logo and new store layout, which it has been rolling out since 2021.

As part of the plans Westminster Council wants to install 12 new pedestrian crossings and improve 45 existing crossings.

"The proposed enhancement of Oxford Street’s public realm infrastructure is part of a bigger, once-in-a-lifetime, opportunity to regenerate one of the world’s most iconic retail and leisure destinations," said Dee Corsi from the New West End Company.

"This partnership between NWEC and Westminster City Council is happening against a backdrop of wider, positive shifts in the market; from the progress of ambitious, multi-use redevelopment projects to the signing of new global flagships, and the return of iconic brands such as HMV.

"We are already seeing increased footfall and dwell time as a result of the Elizabeth Line, which underscores the need for an enhanced visitor experience that will encourage more visitors to come more often and stay for longer. "We look forward to working with WCC to ensure that we are capitalising on this momentum and delivering on a vision for Oxford Street in which enhanced public realm provision is a key component of its long-term, sustainable growth."

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