Ros Morgan, chief executive of the Heart of London Business Alliance, which represents hundreds of retailers and hospitality venues around Leicester Square, Piccadilly and St James’s, warned radical measures were needed to persuade shoppers to return in large numbers after December 2.
She said: “Trading hours need to be extended as long as possible – certainly up to 11pm. That will increase the period of time retailers can make money but also reinforces confidence that you can shop safely because stores are less likely to crowded.
“It would be very helpful if it could include Sundays. We have been asking for longer Sunday trading hours in the run up to Christmas for a long time and, if there was ever a time do it, it’s now.”
West End stores do generally stay open later in the last frenzied weeks before Christmas Day but not normally beyond the 10pm closing time on the traditional late shopping nights on Thursdays.
The plea came as footfall figures for the second week of the lockdown showed the number of people in the West End has slumped to levels not seen since April.
Last Saturday, footfall in the Heart of London area was down 26 per cent on the previous weekend and 90 per cent on the equivalent day last year.
Over the summer, it had gradually been climbing to around the 50 per cent mark before the new wave of restrictions kicked in towards the end of September as coronavirus cases began to rise again.
Since then, the West End has been subjected to a series of increasingly severe limitations on trading including the rule of six, the 10pm curfew on eating and drinking out, the Tier 2 ban on household mixing and, finally, at the start of November, the second lockdown.
Another leading London business chief today demanded weekly reviews of the “crippling” restrictions on the capital’s traders with decisions based on “clear, transparent local data.”
Richard Burge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said in a letter to Sadiq Khan, seen by the Standard, that “it is imperative that restrictions in the capital are eased as soon as the evidence allows.”