Surge in cases of Omicron variant of Covid-19 seem to have dampened the retail segment, latest data suggest, highlighting a huge decline in footfall on Boxing Day this year.
As per data from Springboard, retail footfall was down by 45 per cent as compared with Boxing Day 2019.
In Central London, where one in 20 people had been infected with Omicron, there was a 67 per cent decrease in shopping numbers from the 2019 levels. That included Oxford Street, the main shopping area, which usually saw queues to get into Selfridges. Other stores like Marks and Spencer, John Lewis and Next weren’t open at all this year.
Northern Ireland saw shoppers’ numbers down 73 per cent compared with 2019. In Wales, social distancing measures have seen a 53 per cent lowering of the numbers, while Scotland saw footfalls down by 50 per cent.
The report says England has seen a 43 per cent decrease in footfall.
Traditionally, Boxing Day (Dec 26) sales have always been a big draw for shoppers hitting the high street to bag a bargain.
Springboard insights director Diane Wehrle said the lower volume of shopping came from consumers’ nervousness about the virus – along with some retailers’ decisions not to open.
Although some retail chains didn’t open all stores on Boxing Day, the figures were at least higher than last year, when the country was under tighter restrictions. It’s also thought that some people have shifted their spending online. Four in 10 respondents to a survey conducted by Barclaycard said they would buy online instead in a bid to avoid queues and crowds over the sales period.
British Retail Consortium spokesperson Tom Holder said: “The spread of Omicron across the UK has increased the share of spending made online as many consumers avoided town and city centres.
“While spending on travel and hospitality may be lower than their pre-pandemic levels, retailers are waiting to see whether this leads to higher spending on retail goods, particularly food and homeware.”