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British shoppers rush back to reopened clothes stores

David Milliken
·1-min read
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions ease, in London

By David Milliken

LONDON (Reuters) -English and Welsh shoppers rushed back to clothes and furniture stores last week when they reopened after three months of COVID lockdown restrictions, but the novelty of dining and drinking outside rapidly faded.

The Office for National Statistics said credit and debit purchases of clothes and furniture jumped to 89% of pre-pandemic levels in the week to April 15, up by 26 percentage points on a week earlier.

The figures are based on high-value CHAPS payment data from credit and debit card processors collected by the Bank of England.

This data shows overall card spending rose to 91% of its level in February 2020 last week, up from 83% the week before when the Easter holiday weekend had reduced spending.

The number of shoppers in the week to April 17 rose to 75% of its level two years earlier, up by 31 percentage points on the previous week, and the volume of job adverts held at pre-pandemic levels.

Non-essential retailers in England and Wales reopened on April 12 for the first time since early January, and English pubs and restaurants were allowed to begin serving customers who booked outdoor seating.

The first day of opening brought a rush of diners and drinkers, but the appeal of eating and drinking outdoors in dry but cold weather had faded by the weekend.

Reservations on April 17 stood at 60% of their average level two years ago, down from 79% on April 12, according to data from booking website OpenTable produced for the ONS.

London saw especially weak bookings, with reservations just 44% of pre-pandemic levels.

(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Kate Holton and James Davey)