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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 April, 2003, 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK
Paying the price for May Day
By Chirag Trivedi
BBC News Online, London

Oxford Street
Some shops will close on Oxford Street

The anti-capitalist demonstrations which mark May Day in central London could have their desired effect this year as businesses brace themselves for another setback in an already troubled time.

After the year before last, when thousands of protesters gathered in and around Oxford Street, many businesses are likely to remain shut and boarded up on 1 May, rather than risk damage to their property and possibly injury to themselves.

The demonstrations will further hit profits already affected by congestion charging, the closure of the Central Line, the threat of terrorism and the global economic downturn.

Services on the Central Line which runs through the West End, were suspended after a derailment in January. This led to a 15% loss of trade for retailers on Oxford Street.

In a recent survey by the London Chamber of Commerce, almost 60% of retailers in the congestion charge zone, blamed the 5-a-day road toll scheme for a 74% downturn in takings compared to the same period last year.

Stallholder Tony Quinn
This is the last thing we need. With congestion charge and the war, business is not what it should be
Stall holder Tony Quinn

No figures are available for the loss to business from last year's May Day protest but in 2001 it was estimated that London's economy lost 20m in trade.

Last year many shops stayed open but boarded up windows and hired extra security.

But in 2003 some small businesses on Oxford Street have said they have no option but to close for the day.

Tony Quinn, who runs a fruit stall, said: "This is the last thing we need. With the congestion charge and the war, business is not what it should be.

"We'll probably not open for the day. We didn't last year on the advice of the police.

"Staying closed could cost us up to 800 at this time of year."

May Day map of London
Events, locations and times

Mr A. Patel of Oxford News, newsagents said: "We will do the same as we did last year and open up but close at midday.

"We will lose a lot of money but we don't want to get hurt either."

The manager of the Surprise Surprise clothes shop, Rita Sheth, said: "Last year we boarded up the windows but continued to trade but business was so poor that we shut at 4pm.

"This year we can't afford to shut at all, and we can't afford to get the windows boarded up either."

But R. Shah who owns a tobacconist, Bonds of Oxford Street, said: "We will be open as usual. There was no problem last year."

And shoppers said they would be giving the West End a wide berth with one tourist saying there "are other things than shopping to do in London".

A spokesman for the London Chamber of Commerce said it was hoping for an uneventful demonstration.

'Business as usual'

"We have every confidence in the police that this year's protest will be peaceful and have a minimum impact on business," he said.

A spokesman for Westminster Council said it hopes to have a "business as usual" day.

"We will be asking businesses to review their security and if requested we will remove street furniture, such as dustbins.

"The last few years have seen a marked improvement in the level of violence and damage.

"We hope to see that continue."

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