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This street has played a vital part in my life, from working in a street just off the main thoroughfare to the extent that the majority of shops are open till 9pm at night makes Oxford Street a strongly viable option compared to the new places of Westfield in West and East London. Oxford Street itself has been through a lot in its rather splendid and eventful history, from the terror of the IRA bombings in the 80ís to the recent building work of the much needed Crossrail project. A project that has severely impacted the street along its full length with various buildings being demolished and tube stations such as Bond Street being upgraded, the scope of impact is huge.
Whenever I go here to shop or simply for a stroll then I like to walk from the east end of Oxford Street to Marble Arch, some 1.5 miles in length. Thereís plenty to see and plenty of places to visit, however Oxford Circus acts as some kind of barrior between the two halves and comparing the two you can see a noticeable difference. The east side between Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Circus borders Soho to the south and Fitzrovia to the north. The shops in this stretch seem to be more t-shirt shops and less of the brand names in residence. The shop fronts are messy and the buildings look tarnished and unkempt, the pollution from the buses seem to have had an effect here as the road is very narrow and the pavements less than half the width compared to the Marble Arch end. Its here that Crossrail has the biggest impact as well as a high number of buildings have been demolished or partially altered to accommodate the new structures of the station entrances to meet the requirements for the need of the passenger. Itís a good thing too as Tottenham Court Road tube station needs this to happen to tackle the current congestion throughout the day let alone rush hours and weekends. Thatís not to say that the east side doesnít have anything to offer at all, it does have a large Marks and Spencer, HMV, Waterstones and assorted brand name coffee shops such as Starbucks and Nero. Itís just that the space available isnít really fit for the purpose of the high number of pedestrians outside the shops or passing through. Also I have to mention the larger than large Primark that
Pictures of Oxford Street, London
Oxford Street, London
has opened where the old Virgin Megastore used to be as the scale of this store is humungous and only adds to the external congestion. Also located here is the only pub on Oxford Street here next to Primark as well, The Tottenham, a small sized pub that always seems to be busy. Starting a stroll from here Oxford Street gets wider and wider until the width opens out at Oxford Circus and the junction with Regents Street which in the last year has been improved to allow pedestrians to cross diagonally rather than in a straight line, this is something you see in Tokyo that has been applied and it does work. Although you have to realise that eventually in the window of opportunity that everyone will eventually meet in the middle which can cause some hysterical side footing to be performed.
The west side of Oxford Street is a different story and I can see why there is rivalry between the two halves. The west side has a more careful approach seems more structured, however this is unbalanced as this side has multiple department stores such as John Lewis and Selfridges to name just a few and has had substantial building work performed that has bought in new companies or even offered new premises for companies such as Evans, River Island, Berksha and Gap that have made the opportunity to create new flagship stores. Walking up this part of Oxford Street is a pleasure as the pavements are wide, fewer buses and space to move. Itís the department stores that take up the most space, Selfridges always has something to offer with plenty to keep the shopper amused. Whether itís the various internal bars or restaurants or the fashion concessions that people visit, something is always happening. John Lewis is no doubt a direct competitor and I am always amazed with the level of customer service that both offer to the customer, and although I donít shop in either that often, when I do itís a guilty pleasure and a very enjoyable experience. It is nice to be given the choice of what to do and where to go and even if you need something to eat then there are plenty of places that you can sit and eat just off the Street itself. One good example that I can recommend is Cavendish Square behind BHS where in the lunchtime the seats in the square can be taken quite early, in the summer this is a pleasure to sit and let the world go by.
Obviously in a place like this it is complemented by a high number of tourists and sometimes after long periods of time that I have been elsewhere then I tend to call myself one as well. The tourists bring a high amount of money to the street and with the way the country is at the moment I welcome that. Although the sight of a suitcase being bought in Primark and the contents of a dozen brown Primark bags being stuffed into it actually outside the shop itself on the pavement does bring a smile to my faceÖ especially when they go back in to the shop to get a second case!
I prefer going to Oxford Street sometimes when compared to Bluewater as this is open air, in fact when youíve done what you needed to do then you can go and explore the areas around Oxford Street. I would recommend an area called St Christopherís Place which is between Wigmore Strett and Oxford Street beside Selfridges. This area is full of bars and cafes that deliver a huge scope of cuisine and menus. Also there are a number of pubs here too and can get quite lively in the evening as all the restaurants have alfresco dining, so this is quite a pull for the area. Oxford Street does have a few major problems; firstly itís the traffic congestion. Okay only buses are allowed the full length of the street itself, but the fact that there can be up to 50 buses in Oxford Street at any given time is a cause for concern. One suggestion has been to pave the street over and while I like this idea immensely as it would benefit the area, the problem is how the street gets served with public transport above ground. In the past there have been a number of suggestions from an elevated monorail to a vast glass cover running the full length. It would be good if something could be done as the street does deserve something like this. After all the completion of Westfield at Shepherds Bush and Stratford that can be reached by a single tube train from any one of the four tube stations on Oxford Street does present a challenge. Secondly, is the old issue that west is better than east. In reality it is and so the powers that be should seriously think about the quality of the buildings and the experience the shopper has. It was interesting to note that that on my last visit in September that I did see a large number of Police on patrol, with the run up to Christmas really now underway the crime issue has to be addressed.
The majority of shops on the run-up to events will have some kind of event taking place, which in most cases will involve a celebrity. Shops like La Senza may get the person who is their "face" to perform an appearance or even an author does a signing at Waterstones. There always seems to be something happening that you can attend or even discover by chance. The switching on of the Christmas lights is an event that makes the crowds turn out in their thousands to see a boy band press the button and I have to say the quality of the lights over the last few years has certainly improved.
Overall, Oxford Street offers me what I want. Sometimes it is nice to simply get a one day travel card and walk from end to end, buying why I need and stopping for a cup of coffee somewhere to just chill out for a while. It does offer a large spectrum of things for the shopper and allows a person to look and buy rather than pressure them like some shops I been too lately. I do tend to use Oxford Street for the larger more birthday type gifts and even today I still work relatively local that allows me to get there via a single bus ride and thafact that the opening times have been extended allows more time to spend some hard earned wages with a little bit of flair! Since I discovered Oxford Stette as a teenager, I;ve seen a lot of change happening here and its a story on an epic scale. What you see on one visit will change again in time and so every visit will be different, in fact it may take a lot to keep up if you are an occasional visitor as there can be changes with shop location, names and so on.
I suppose you could say that this is one shopping area that does keep the "british end up" with what it does and by what I saw on my last visit that at 7pm in the evening on a weekday felt like a normal Saturday afternoon given the amount of people that were out and the amount that was being purchased which was obvious by the sight of heavy loads of shopping bags being carried, I think it was clear that recovery was well under way.