Wholesalers suffered as London turned into an Olympics “ghost town”

The country may have been nuts for Bolt, mad for Mo and in an upbeat mood after the extraordinary performance of Team GB in the London Olympics, but wholesalers in the capital suffered from a huge drop in demand as tourists and shoppers stayed in, stayed away or stayed in the Olympic venues.

Michael Spinks, of Hackney wholesaler Essex Flour amp; Grain, had become something of a celebrity in the run-up to the Games, making numerous media appearances in which he predicted dire consequences for his business as the result of traffic restrictions imposed by the authorities (Wholesale News, July). His business has been adversely affected, but not in the way he’d expected.

“London became a ‘ghost town’,” he said. “Our service levels to our customers did not fail as we had feared, but [Games organiser] LOCOG, London Transport and City Hall got it very badly wrong – their dire warnings of traffic chaos were overdone and this, coupled with the G4S security farce, scared most tourists and Londoners away from everywhere but the Olympic venues.

“The result is that we had pretty brilliant road conditions and decimated commerce as a result of a complete lack of demand. I know of many businesses that are really struggling with the absence of the regular and normal tourist trade as a result of the ‘Olympic effect'”.

Ramesh Madhani, of independent North London delivered wholesaler BMV, concurred. “We cover Central London outlets for confectionery, soft drinks and snacks, and footfall is down, passing trade is down, trade is heavily down across the board by around 50%,” he told Wholesale News. “Seven years of planning has resulted in the authorities clearing London of people. The shock tactics of warning people to stay away has resulted in London turning into a ghost town.”

A foodservice wholesaler operating just outside the capital, who asked not to be named, added: “I’ve never seen trade as bad as this. All our customers in London have seen demand plummet – one told me he’d had just eight customers in his restaurant in three days. If you’re a pub with a big-screen TV you’ll have done OK, but most of our customers have had a terrible time. Fans who didn’t watch the Games live at the various venues just stayed in and watched them on television. Our business was down about 40% compared to July/August last year.”

As well as scaring everyone away, the authorities were also condemned for not listening to the concerns of local businesses affected by the Olympic behemoth, and for poor communications.

“All logistics-based businesses were – and still are! – confused as to what traffic restrictions were in place and how they were enforced,” said Madhani. “London 2012 was supposed to provide an much needed boost to the economy, and it failed. [Prime Minister] Cameron and [Mayor Boris] Johnson need to pull themselves away from their free seats at the games to see how badly trade has been affected.

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