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UK high street visits still down over a third as lockdown lifts

Saleha Riaz
·2-min read
Shoppers on Oxford Street, London. Photo: Getty
Shoppers on Oxford Street, London. Photo: Getty

UK high street footfall was up 63% week-on-week as of Wednesday afternoon, as non-essential retailers in England reopened after the country’s month-long lockdown, but footfall was still 34% down compared with this time last year.

Market researcher Springboard’s recent data shows that while footfall at UK’s shopping centres was up 100% compared with last week, it was still down roughly 23% year-on-year.

And footfall in Central London was up 59.4% week-on-week, but still down 65% year-on-year.

It’s likely that concerns about the spread of the coronavirus has some people continuing to shop online for the holiday season rather than in-store.

This is evidenced by how many people chose to shop online for Debenhams’ online “fire sale.” Customers were left stuck in a “virtual queue” on the department store’s website on Wednesday morning as the site was overwhelmed by shoppers looking for deals after the company collapsed.

More than 925,000 shoppers were stuck in the virtual queue, according to reports by the Evening Standard.

Customers even complained on Twitter that the website was crashing completely while they were in the virtual queue when reached the checkout page.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said that “the public can do their Christmas shopping confident that retail operations are COVID-19-secure and retailers are doing everything to keep them safe.

READ MORE: UK retail prices fall as festive season gets underway

“Everyone can shop in knowledge that every purchase we make is a retailer helped, a job protected and a local community supported,” she added.

She noted that the run up to Christmas is a vital time for retailers, with one in every eight pounds spent in December and that following four weeks of closure, many retailers are extending opening hours and offering discounts.

Earlier this week, Primark said it will keep 11 of its stores in England open around the clock once the latest lockdown restrictions lift on 2 December.

Retailers would normally be required to go through a lengthy process, under the Town and Country Planning Act, to apply to local authorities if they wish to extend trading hours outside the 9am to 7pm window.

However, communities secretary Robert Jenrick said he wanted to remove the bureaucracy to encourage greater trade – allowing shops to open for up to 24 hours a day in December and January.

UK high streets have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic with Arcadia, once one of the UK high street’s most celebrated names in fashion, being placed into administration.

Arcadia operates almost 500 stores across the UK and employs around 13,000 people. Administration leaves the future of those jobs and stores in doubt.

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