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UK high street shopper numbers to fall

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Springboard expects that during the lockdown period itself, high street footfall will be down by 78.8%

The number of people visiting UK shops during the 2020 Christmas peak shopping season will be sharply down on last year as shoppers opt to buy online instead, new figures suggest.

Springboard says the second lockdown, announced at the weekend, will be “catastrophic” for the industry – and it has recalculated its Christmas forecast to show the added impact – taking the predicted fall to -62% across UK shopping locations in the six weeks from Sunday November 22 to Sunday December 26, from -32.7% previously.

In England alone, it expects that during the lockdown period itself – between November 5 and December 2 – high street footfall will be down by 87.3% on last year, and across all locations footfall will be down by 78.8%.

Shoppers yesterday queued to make purchases before non-essential shops close once more in England this Thursday. By then, Primark owner Associated British Foods says 57% of its shops will be closed once more – in markets including England, Wales, Northern Ireland, France, Belgium, Slovenia, and Catalonia in Spain. It predicted today that it would lose £375m as a result.

Non-essential shops in Wales (November 9) and Northern Ireland (November 11) are both scheduled to reopen sooner than those in England, while Scotland has now introduced a five-tier system where non-essential retailers are closed from level 4 upwards. As yet, no areas are yet in that level.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) says the news of the closure represents “a nightmare before Christmas” – and one that it thinks is unnecessary.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: It will cause untold damage to the high street in the run up to Christmas, cost countless jobs, and permanently set back the recovery of the wider economy, with only a minimal effect on the transmission of the virus.

She said, a recent Sage paper reported that closing ‘non-essential’ retail would have minimal impact on the transmission of Covid. This is thanks to the hundreds of millions of pounds retailers have spent making their stores Covid-secure and safe for customers and colleagues.

The announced closure will have a significant economic impact on the viability of thousands of shops and hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country. The previous lockdown cost ‘non-essential’ shops £1.6 billion a week in lost sales; now that we are entering the all-important Christmas shopping period, these losses are certain to be much bigger, Dickinson said.

She said, we have no doubt that retailers will comply with the rules and play their part to ensure the British public can remain safe and have access to the goods they need. Nonetheless, Government must also play its part, providing support to businesses that will be forced to close, otherwise the consequences for local retail will be dire.

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