Heart of London Business Alliance, in collaboration with leading urban design practice Publica, has launched an Evening and Night-Time Vision, Strategy and Action Plan – the first of its kind – to support and build the evening and night-time economy (ENTE) in the West End. New research (Arup 2023) has quantified the enormous value of this sector of the West End’s economy as £14bn a year and growing, accounting for over 25% of all West End jobs.

However, pre-pandemic trends suggest the West End’s evening and night-time economy should now be worth £15.5 billion, rather than only £14 billion, as the sector is facing a perfect storm of high living costs, supply chain disruption, high operating costs, staff shortages, limited step-free access, increasing antisocial behaviour, footfall stagnation and lack of facilities and amenities.

Evening and night-time activities – between the hours of 6pm and 6am – are a defining component of what makes the West End a world‑famous destination. Heart of London’s research demonstrates how the night-time economy is deeply connected to the entire ecosystem of business and leisure activities in central London, and, if supported, can become a major driver for recovery across multiple sectors.

Heart of London’s vision and detailed action plan aims to look beyond the obvious and support the direct value and employment generated by evening and night-time activities – where 50% of GVA is driven by the cultural sector alone – and the crucial role of night workers in sustaining much of the economic activity in the West End. 

The ENTE action plan makes over seventy recommendations, including:

  • Diversifying the West End’s offer and create new experiences, such as a range of live music performances to more family-friendly events, to entice new audiences
  • Encouraging day-time premises and services such as retailers and cafes to experiment with opening hours, staying open later to encourage greater footfall
  • Improving the design of lighting in key streets and spaces to support the movement of people after 6pm
  • Working with partners to create a dashboard that collects relevant data to the area’s use over 24-hours to identify potential unmet demand
  • Promoting the London Living Wage and lobby for free health checks for shift workers
  • Supporting and investing in the next generation of night-time creatives, building careers in the West End evening and night-time economy with vocational training and qualifications
  • Piloting cultural events such as Art of London’s Art after Dark
  • Supporting a safe night out for all, with eight actions to improve safety 
  • Improving the accessibility and affordability of a night out with improved active travel options

Heart of London’s research also assesses the underlying health of the sector following the pandemic and underscores the resilience of the West End’s evening and night-time economy for both the whole of the West End district and the core Heart of London area. Between 2019 and 2020, GVA dipped 6.7% and 6.9%, respectively, for the two areas, and their real value has recovered to 99.7% and 99.4% of pre-pandemic levels. 

However, whilst the ENTE has almost fully recovered to its pre‑pandemic levels, the research findings show that it is still below its growth trend line. The culture and leisure segment of the night-time economy has suffered the most since 2019, shrinking 18% in terms of employment and 13% in GVA in 2020, and still 7% below pre‑pandemic levels.