Team GB’s gold medal haul and Britons’ national pride in the London 2012 Olympics have brought people flocking back to the shops, with soaring sales of bikes, sportswear, picnic foods and TVs.
Last week in London the West End – usually buzzing with tourists at this time of year – was described as a “ghost town” as people were put off travelling by warnings of potential transport chaos. The widely feared travel disruptions never materialised, and shoppers were this week back out in force. Shopper traffic increased by more than 13% in the West End on Tuesday compared with a year earlier, according to the latest footfall figures from Experian, which credited the impact of the triathlon. Having witnessed the historic victory for the Brownlee brothers from Yorkshire, spectators then hit the shops.
Jace Tyrrell at the New West End Company said: “We know from other Olympic cities that it definitely builds in the second week.” Compared with the first Olympics weekend when footfall was down 9.1% in the UK as a whole and 21% in London year on year, the second Games weekend saw a pick-up in shopper numbers, according to Springboard. Saturday 4 August saw national footfall rise 5.4% and London footfall 8.3% and Sunday 5 August maintained this uplift with 1.8% and 5.4% respective rises in year on year growth.
Britain’s higher-than-expected medal haul in a variety of disciplines has prompted a jump in people taking up those sports. Cycle and sports shops and department stores have reported a surge in sales of bikes and accessories, running, swimming and tennis gear and rowing machines. Halfords, the biggest seller of bikes in the UK, reported higher sales of Boardman and its own-brand road bikes. A Victoria Pendleton-designed bike range for women saw sales rise more than 70% this month.
Evans Cycles has enjoyed a 35% increase in the sale of road bikes and a surge in visitors to its website in the week after Bradley Wiggins‘ triumph in the Tour de France, followed by his Olympic gold medal. The cycling chain said the last few days have been the busiest of the year, with higher sales in every region across the UK. Bikes costing between £700 and £2,000 are most popular. Getting kitted out like Britain’s cycling hero would set customers back £7,400, with a similar bike costing nearly £7,000, plus shorts, helmet and shoes (minus the sideburns).
Even though gold eluded Brits in the swimming, with Rebecca Adlington having to settle for two bronzes, swimming costumes and goggles are flying off the shelves. John Lewis sold 77% more men’s Team GB swimming trunks last week than in the previous week, as well as 44% more goggles, and 34% more Monster Beat headphones, sported by many of the Olympic swimmers when walking up to the pool.
Ben Rogers, sports buyer at John Lewis, said: “Olympics fever has really gripped the nation and we have seen an increase in people buying the equipment to try to emulate their favourite stars.”
Rowing machines have seen a 106% surge in sales week-on-week, while running clothes and trainers are up 41% on a year ago and tennis gear has risen 14%.
As the nation got together to watch the Olympics at home or on one of the many outdoor screens around the country, sales of beer, snacks, ready meals and celebration cakes have jumped.
Sales at Waitrose last week were 9.7% higher than a year ago. Its owner, the John Lewis Partnership, also reported strong sales at its department stores, not only in London but across the country. Sales leapt 22.4%, also helped by better weather. Retail director Nat Wakely said the figures for this week look similar to those for last week. Economists said the figures fuelled hopes that the Olympics would give a tangible boost to retail sales overall, feeding through to the whole economy.
Customers have been championing all things British. Homegrown cherries enjoyed their best week of the season, with sales up 25% on last year. People also snapped up traditional British ready meals, with sales up 84%, as well as local and regional beers, where demand climbed 31%.
With Britons glued to the action, convenience foods and snacks were in demand, with crisps and snacking nuts both up by 35% and dips up 14%. Picnic classics also proved popular, with quiches (French, yes, but a British picnic staple) seeing a 40% increase in sales, and celebration cakes surging 90% on last year.
It wasn’t only British athletes who cleaned up last week. As Brits prepared to entertain guests at home they contributed to a 35% surge in demand for cleaning products.Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said: “Admittedly, John Lewis reported that matters had been helped by the better weather and new ranges, but there were clear indications in their sales figures that the Olympic Games was having a positive impact.”
Sales of London 2012 merchandise rose 51% week on week. And stores reported an increase in purchases of large-screen TVs in the first week of the Olympics, along with garden furniture as the weather finally joined the party.