Spread of the Omicron variant and new restrictions keep UK shoppers at home

High rates of coronavirus and tighter restrictions in some parts of the UK have kept shoppers away from the high streets on Boxing Day, while some major retailers remain closed. during the busy traditional sales day.

According to data collected by Springboard through mid-Sunday, visitor numbers were down 45% compared to Gift Day 2019 at retail destinations across the UK.

Central London, where official data shows one in 20 people is infected with the Omicron coronavirus variant, has been particularly hard hit with shopper numbers 67 per cent lower than in 2019, the group said. Retail data experts said.

On Oxford Street, the capital’s main shopping street, people line up to get in Selfridges but other major stores, including Marks and Spencer, John Lewis and Next, did not open.

Diane Wehrle, chief information officer at Springboard, blamed the drop in lower inventory on “consumer’s continued anxiety about Covid rates” and the move by some stores not to open. big retail.

The decision by the three administrative bodies in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to impose stricter restrictions than in England from Sunday was reflected in early update data.

In Northern Ireland, the number of shoppers was down 73% on the same day in 2019. In Wales, which introduced social distancing measures, the figure was 53% lower. In Scotland, footfall has dropped by 50%.

In the UK, where UK prime minister Boris Johnson has so far refused to take further action to try to stop the spread of Omicron, footfall has dropped by 43 per cent.

England report a record 122,000 coronavirus cases on Friday but halted collating the figures over the Christmas weekend. Johnson will examine the latest Omicron data on Monday and decide whether to introduce further guidance or restrictions in the UK ahead of the New Year celebrations.

The prime minister has promised to convene parliament before introducing further restrictions but time is running out to do this before the new year: the recall of MPs requires 48 hours notice. Johnson will also likely face stiff political backlash from ministers and MPs in his own party, who are skeptical of further restrictions.

People with knowledge of Johnson’s thinking said he was more likely to tighten guidance if the data suggested hospitals could be at risk of being overwhelmed.

Preliminary official findings late last week showed that people infected with Omicron were up to 70 percent less likely to be hospitalized than those with Delta.

“The latest research on Omicron supports Boris’ prudent decision. I don’t understand why he’s calling people to Westminster when things are starting to look like we can get through,” one minister said.

The British Retail Consortium warned that non-food retailers had lost £30 billion in the previous three closures and said any tighter restrictions would “put more pressure on retailers”. retail and upscale streets at a time when many are still recovering from previous closures.”

Even before the pandemic, Gifting Day had lost its status as a key trading day for retailers due to the rise of online shopping, which has more frequent discount cycles – a trends in which the pandemic has accelerated.

Data from Barclaycard shows 45% of shoppers plan to avoid the high streets and target online sales with a forecast average spend of £247, up £61 on 2019.

Richard Hyman, an independent retail analyst, described Boxing Day sales, “not even a faint shadow of [their] former self”.

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