LONDON (Reuters) - Shopper numbers across Britain will rise by nearly one fifth this week versus the previous week thanks to the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, market researcher Springboard forecast on Monday.
The British government is removing most pandemic restrictions in England from July 19, so-called "freedom day", saying a rapid rollout of vaccines has largely broken the link between infections and serious illness or death.
The pandemic has hammered Britain's retailers, already struggling with high rents and business taxes, tight margins and online competition. Hundreds of store closures and thousands of job losses have been announced.
Springboard forecast that UK shopper numbers, or footfall, will rise by 19.7% in the week to July 24.
It forecast week-on-week increases of 32.2% on Friday July 23 and 39.5% on Saturday July 24.
The researcher forecast a 25% rise in weekly shopper numbers on high streets where the removal of social distancing rules will allow higher numbers of customers in restaurants, coffee shops and pubs.
It forecast an 18% rise at shopping centres and a 10% increase in retail parks.
However, Springboard forecast footfall will still be 20.1% below the pre-pandemic level seen in the same week in 2019.
"With summer holidays commencing and many opting for a summer staycation in the UK, footfall will continue to rise throughout July and into August as many look to enjoy the good weather," said Diane Wehrle, Springboard’s insights director.
The July 19 lifting of COVID-19 restrictions applies only to England as the devolved nations in the United Kingdom - Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland - have been setting their own timetables for easing rules.
However, shopper numbers in England account for around 85% of all footfall in the UK.
(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Frances Kerry)