Shoppers defy Covid to splash cash on high street – but numbers still massively down

The busiest weekend of pre-Christmas trading will see us spend £2.7billion in shops and online – but city centres have have seen a marked drop in pre-Covid footfall according to retailers

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Festive shoppers defied Covid warnings and hit the high street yesterday ahead of a possible post Christmas lockdown.

Thirty six million are expected to have spent £2.7billion in shops and online on what is usually the busiest weekend of pre-Christmas trading.

But while online sales are booming, city centres have seen a marked drop in footfall, according to retail bosses.

New figures showed shopper numbers down by nearly a quarter from pre-Covid levels.

Diane Wehrle of analysts Springboard said footfall yesterday was 1.8 per cent lower than last Saturday.

She said: “This is clearly due to the surge in Covid infections due to the omicron variant which as led to consumers self censoring and being far more cautious in terms of where they go.”

Shoppers walk past stalls and shops in the Apple Market in Covent Garden


AFP via Getty Images)

Oxford Street, London’s flagship shopping destination, was quieter than during pre-pandemic times but some city centres outside the capital such as Newcastle’s Northumberland Street and Manchester’s Market Street were packed.

GlobalData and shopping site VouchercCodes say many people are taking the opportunity to shop while they can amid fears of for another lockdown.

They predicted more than 11 million high street shoppers would spend £1billion on last-minute gifts, food and drink yesterday while a further £700million would be spent online.

Pedestrian walk past shops in Covent Garden on the last Saturday before Christmas


AFP via Getty Images)

VoucherCodes spokeswoman Anita Naik said: “The figures suggest that while some people are exercising caution to avoid the increased risks of catching covid, for many a normal Christmas Day is still on the cards.”

Tory peer Ruby McGregor-Smith of the British chambers of commerce called for the reintroduction of furlough as the record wave of infections hammered consumer confidence.

She said: “Companies up and down the country are really struggling to the extent that many of them don’t know how they are going to get through January and February.”

Hospitality bosses reeling from more than three million cancellations fear they have missed out on £4billion in takings while music venues are losing £2million a week.

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