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What Are Europe’s Busiest Shopping Destinations?

Despite the pandemic sealing the fate of U.K. flagships like House of Fraser and Topshop in 2020, London leads European capital cities for having the busiest retail streets for both mass-market and luxury shopping, according to commercial property consultancy company BNP Paribas Real Estate (BNPPRE).

Oxford Street, anchored by the recently sold Selfridges, two Primark locations and a smattering of fast-fashion retailers like Zara, H&M, River Island and more, was named the No.1 capital city street for footfall in the mass-market prime high streets category. Nearby Regent Street, home to several H&M Group-owned labels like Weekday, Cos and Arket and Levi’s was named the No. 3. It was also named Europe’s the No. 1 luxury prime high streets, thanks in part to destinations like the stately Liberty London and Burberry.

London leads European capital cities for having the busiest retail streets, according to BNP Paribas Real Estate's new foot traffic report.
Levi’s on Regent Street. Belinda Jiao/AP

The findings are part of the company’s second Pan-European Footfall Analysis covering 34 global and lifestyle cities across Europe prior to the latest covid variant breakout. Based on prime inner-city pedestrian traffic in September, the analysis suggest that some level of normality has been restored to European city centers “proving their appeal, along with some new retail models and formats that are being successfully introduced to inner cities.”

While all cities have been seen lower-than-usual international tourism this fall, London is enjoying momentum with the 14.6 million inhabitants of the metropolitan region. London’s Long Acre nabbing the position of No. 7 capital city street for footfall in the mass-market prime high streets category is evident of this local trend. The street is home to department stores like Marks & Spencer and other errand-running spots like stationary stores, coffee shops and quick-service lunch spots.

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Bond Street, however, remains London’s reigning street for luxury with fashionable names like Fendi, Jimmy Choo and Rolex flanking the historic street . In general, BNPPRE said the city’s luxury streets are proving resilient with an average footfall decrease of 9 percent.

“Physical stores able to attract local customers by providing innovative experiences will take advantage of London’s potential domestic demand,” BNPPRE reported. Revitalization efforts, like the planned pedestrian area for Oxford Street and Slone Street’s streetscape upgrades, will be key to maintaining the city’s shopping status, as well as choregraphed efforts by neighborhoods. For example, Marylebone Village’s “shopping and dining days,” a period where retailers and restaurants align promotions and special events, generates higher-than-normal pedestrian traffic.

Capital appeal

Following Oxford Street is Madrid’s Gran Vía for the second-most footfall for mass-market prime high streets. “Gran Vía has strengthened its role as a key destination thanks to powerful flagship stores like Primark, Adidas and Huawei,” the report stated. “It is also a popular leisure and tourist area day and night, mixing cinemas, theatres and restaurants in addition to its comprehensive fashion offer.”

In general, the report notes that Madrid’s center district, which stretches over five streets, has a huge mass-market footprint with 90 percent of the stores in this area falling into this category.

Benefiting high foot traffic at one of Europe’s major department stores, La Rinascente, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan ranked fourth. The street is a draw for flagships, including Apple and Victoria’s Secret and a high number of globally known retailers like Foot Locker and H&M.

At No. 5, Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris still has cache, thanks in part to a mix of experiential retail like Nike’s “House of Innovation,” Mercedes and Renault car showrooms and a millennial and Gen Z-centric Galeries Lafayette.

Pragmatic Germany

Beyond capitals, German city centers score highly for their pedestrian flows.

Cologne’s Schildergasse was ranked the No. 1 mass-market prime high street for footfall across European capital and main regional cities. The street welcomes welcome around 77,200 pedestrians per day and is street is undergoing a transformation, according to the report, including the completion of Antoniter Quartier, a new mixed-use development.

London leads European capital cities for having the busiest retail streets, according to BNP Paribas Real Estate's new foot traffic report.
Schildergasse in Cologne Henning Kaiser/AP

Mixed-use projects are becoming the norm throughout Europe as a go-to way to upgrade neglected regions, BNPPRE reported. “These schemes are popular as they attract different categories of people—shoppers, workers and inhabitants—which generate constant flows,” the report stated. “Investors and developers are paying more and more attention to these assets, which enhance downtown plots, restore financial equilibriums and meet citizens’ growing demand for greener spaces.”

No. 3 Kaufingerstraße in Munich is not only the city’s most frequented pedestrian zone, but one of Germany’s and even Europe’s busiest retail pitches, BNPPRE reported. The street, which leads into the Marienplatz, is home to several large department stores including the upscale Oberpollinger. Most stores, however, focus on the mass-market segment, including H&M Home, Esprit and Skechers first flagship in Germany.

At No. 4, Frankfurt Zeil pedestrian thoroughfare remains a draw for foot traffic due to large-scale fast-fashion stores like Primark and Mango. The report notes that there may be opportunities for newcomers in the short to medium term due to the current challenges faced by large clothing and department stores.