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Consumer spending is still too weak to battle more lockdowns, Boris

JIM ARMITAGE
·1-min read
Lucy Young
Lucy Young

If we’re to believe today’s data on shopping, consumers have bounced back from their lockdown deep-freeze with a vengeance.

For the fourth month in a row, there has been a healthy increases in retail sales.

Londoners don’t need the Office for National Statistics to tell them that: visit your local high street tomorrow and you can see it with your own eyes. The “villages” where we live — the Batterseas, Islingtons, Barneses — are definitely picking up.

But the city centre is another thing. The West End remains grimly quiet and the City and Canary Wharf feel like a permanent Bank holiday.

People’s spending has shifted to village London as work-from-homers shop locally. The question is, how much has shifted and how much has just stopped?

My guess is people are spending a fraction of what they normally would.

They’re spending less on work clothes, while cheap lunches prepared at home have replaced the pricey deli near the office.

Sales of DIY kit remains strong, but could be short-lived — you only do up your study once.

So, while the current quarter’s GDP growth will look great in comparison with earlier in the year, the underlying picture will be far more fragile.

Shops, bars and businesses in city centres will go under or cut staff.

That will eventually impact the residential villages those fired workers live in, particularly when other sectors start lay offs after the furlough scheme ends next month.

Throw more lockdowns into that mix and you get some serious hardship ahead. Nobody wants more people to get sick, but the Government must do all in its power to avoid them.