City of London Wants Retail Expansion Despite Pandemic Slump

London’s main financial district expects demand for stores from workers and visitors to increase even as retailers go bust because more consumers are shopping online.

The City of London’s local government expects investors to add 122,500 square meters (1.3 million square feet) of retail space in the district over the coming 15 years, according to a proposed development plan. That’s almost two-thirds the size of Westfield Stratford, one of Europe’s largest shopping malls, which is about 10 minutes by subway from the City.

The spending power of finance and tech workers had led to a boom in the number of restaurants, bars and other nightlife in the neighborhood pre-pandemic. Continuing to reduce the district’s reliance on financial services would help diversify the municipal government’s tax income.

“We have sought advice from our retail consultant on whether to update” the retail space targets due to Covid-19 “and the advice we have received is that our approach to retail remains valid,” a spokesperson for the City of London said in an email. “We will, on our consultant’s advice, keep retail trends and targets under review.”

Demand for cafes, food outlets and leisure facilities could increase in the coming years in the district that is currently home to 2,000 stores. Developers are planning enough office space for more than 85,000 additional workers in the cluster of skyscrapers around the Lloyd’s of London insurance marketplace -- if they can find companies to occupy them and people revert back to commuting five days a week.

The main shopping center in the district at present is the One New Change mall opposite St Paul’s Cathedral. Land Securities Group Plc, which owns the project, said that the value of its London retail portfolio fell almost 17% in the six months through September.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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