Oxford Street 'needs to be supported', says Ikea boss

Can Oxford Street be saved? Britain’s most iconic shopping district ‘needs to be supported’ if it is to return to its heyday era, says Ikea boss

  • Peter Jelkeby says businesses need to be able to invest to save retail hotspot 
  • His comments come as M&S’s redevelopment was blocked by Michael Gove
  • Retailers say high crime rates are being spurred by litter and low visitor footfall

Businesses need to be allowed to invest if Oxford Street is to maintain its status as Britain’s busiest high street, the UK boss of Ikea has said.

Peter Jelkeby, head of the Swedish homeware giant in the UK and Ireland, called on the government to support businesses ‘in every way possible’, in the wake of Michael Gove’s decison to block M&S’s redevelopment of its flagship Marble Arch store.

His comments come as Ikea announced that its upcoming store near Oxford Circus would be delayed opening for up to a year due to the building needing more intensive works than previously thought.

Mr Gove chose to overrule the Mayor of London and Westminster Council in refusing M&S permission to tear down its art deco store, concluding it would have a damaging impact on the neighbouring Selfridges building.

Sseveral Oxford retailers including Selfridges and Ikea expressed support for the M&S scheme during a public enquiry last autumn.

Officer arrive outside JD Sports to deal with a reported mass shoplifting event. A recent spate of unrest planned on social media has seen a dramatically increased police presence on the street

Ikea’s UK head Peter Jelkeby has said that businesses need to be allowed to invest to save Oxford Street

Furniture giant Ikea was set to take over the former Topshop store near Oxford Circus by the end of this year 

Britain’s premier shopping destination has taken a hit since the pandemic, with recent year seeing a rise in empty units

Several prominent shops have been left vacant on the street amid the loss of major brands House of Fraser, Debenhams and Topshop

When asked about the Housing Secretary’s decision to refuse the M&S redevelopment, Mr Jelkeby said that Oxford Street required ‘investment and regeneration’ to continue to attract customers.

Recent years have seen what was once one of Europe’s bustling shopping centres take a hit from the pandemic and the rise of online shopping.

Many stores have been left vacant across the prominent shopping district, with high profile closures including Debenhams and House of Fraser leaving behind large empty units.

An effort by Westminster Council to tackle the rise of low-quality candy and souvenir stores has seen pop-up stores offered low rents to take up spaces on the street.

M&S’s operations director Sacha Berendji told the Telegraph that litter and lower visitor footfall were contributing to increasing crime rates.

A recent spate of social unrest planned in the area saw police issue 34 dispersal orders and make nine arrests, as people were urged online to rob stores.

Oxford Street was once one of Europe’s premier shopping destinations

But it has since been taken over by a growing presence of American Candy stores and souvenir shops

Ikea’s Oxford Street store has been delayed while intensive works are  carried out on the 100-year-old building

Ikea’s opening has now been delayed for a year until September 2024

Shoppers queue outside Peter Robinson, one of the many now defunct department stores with flagships on Oxford Street

Ikea was set to open by the end of this year in the building previously occupied by Topshop, which has stood dormant since the high street fashion brand collapsed in 2021.

It would be the furniture brand’s second location in London after its Hammersmith shop. 

The 100-year-old building on the corner of Regent and Oxford Streets is now owned by Ikea’s largest franchisee, Ingka, and will be updated to modern standards including the installation of heat pumps to replace existing gas boilers.

It will now open its doors in September 2024.

In another early sign of revival, music store HMV announced earlier this year it would return to its former flagship location near Bond Street after a four-year absence.

Pandora, the world’s largest jeweller, was optimistic about the future of the country’s premier shopping destination.

Its property director Andrew Milner-Walker said the street was ‘on the path to recovery’. 

Other retailers, however, warned that more needs to be done to help the West End hotspot get on its feet.

Topshop occupied one of Oxford Street’s most prominent spots until the chain collapsed in 2021

Shoppers fill the aisles of the John Lewis department store

Record shop HMV on Oxford Street. The music store announced earlier this year it would return to its former flagship location near Bond Street after a four-year absence

Michael Murray, CEO of Frasers Group which owns Sports Direct and Flannels, said that retailers were being driven away by high business rates and rents.

Meanwhile, Brian Duffy, the chief executive of Watches of Switzerland, branded the street as a ‘bit of a national embarrassment’.

In another blow for the shopping district, statistics showed that high-spending tourists from Arab countries were choosing Rome and Paris instead of London because of more favourable tax-free shopping schemes.

The Chancellor was urged in an open letter organised by hotelier Sir Rocco Forte from 350 businesses to reintroduce a 20pc refund incentive for overseas visitors.

Shoppers from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia were among the top five spenders in the tax-free market, along with visitors from China, the US and the UK.

Treasury officials asked for evidence of the scheme’s ‘wider economic impact’ earlier this summer, in a sign that the incentive is being considered for this year’s autumn Budget in November.

Despite claims from the Treasury that tax-free shopping for tourists would cost the taxpayer £2billlion, a study showed that VAT refunds could add as much as £10billion to the UK economy.

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