Strategic Context

The Brompton Road forms the heart of a shopping district designated, along with the West End, as one of just two International Centres in the London Plan. Anchored by two world renowned stores – Harrods and Harvey Nichols – the Knightsbridge International Centre is a draw for millions of domestic and international visitors each year.

Commercial Success

The commercial success of the district has positive knock-on effect for neighbouring shopping streets, nearby museums and cultural centres and, of course, residents. But a district with elements of declining commercial activity, deteriorating public realm, and management problems that result in streets that feel unclean, unsafe and with increasing anti-social behaviour becomes a less attractive place in which to live, visit and work.

Beyond the major stores the area does not have the look and feel of a world class district. It is unlikely that visitors to the major stores will spend significant time in the surrounding areas. This is damaging to the long-term viability of the area and, if not addressed, the International Centre may find its attractiveness to visitors and investors falling behind its national and international competitors.

Evolving Consumer Trends

Nationally and globally retailing is facing structural changes, with evolving consumer trends, the growth of internet shopping and the rise of new international shopping destinations, all of which impact on the performance of Knightsbridge and the Brompton Road as an International Centre. Consumers no longer see shopping as a monoculture activity. To compete with alternative locations and internet shopping, traditional retail districts have constantly to offer a wider and better experience to encourage consumers to visit, stay longer and return more often.

Globally, traditional competitor districts are investing heavily in public realm and infrastructure improvements. Paris, for example, is currently investing €500 million in enhancing the Champs Elysees. In addition, new competitors are now appearing, particularly in the Middle East and the Far East. The huge investment being made in shopping malls, such as Dubai, and the establishment of a presence by world leading museums, such as the Louvre and the Hermitage, to create a wider experience shows how some Middle Eastern countries are developing international retail as an alternative to their declining oil economies.

Customer Expectation

More locally the opening of the Elizabeth Line stations in the West End in 2022, together with associated multi-million pound traffic reduction and public realm improvements schemes, will set a higher level of customer expectation to which the Brompton Road and Knightsbridge International Centre must respond if it is to continue to attract domestic and international visitors and investment.

With COVID-19 potentially changing the way people want to work, the office element of the area is clearly a key part of the district’s transformation. An office sector that appeals to businesses attracted to an international Centre provides economic activity and vitality that complements and supports the visitor economy. If the district fails to support the aspirations and demands of its target office market it will lose out to competitor locations.

In short, at a time when Knightsbridge and the Brompton Road cannot afford to stand still, the current lack of a coordinated vision and plan for the district risks its continued deterioration to the detriment of its property owners, businesses and residents.

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