The number of Christmas shoppers in England was down compared with last year on the first weekend since the end of the month-long lockdown.
By pandemic standards, the High Street was packed. But retail analyst Springboard said footfall was down 25% 2019 numbers and down 30% on the corresponding weekend.
In London, however, the picture was even gloomier with footfall down roughly 50% on Sunday, Springboard said.
Falling on Small Business Saturday, many businesses were hoping for somewhat of a boost after enduring a second lockdown this year. There is some comfort for retailers, however. The figures suggest there are far more people returning to the shops after this lockdown than after the first. In fact, footfall was roughly 60% higher over the weekend than over 20-21 June, the first weekend shops were allowed to open in England after the first lockdown.
Diane Wehrle, Springboard’s marketing director, said: “Part of this is timing - the proximity to Christmas means there is huge pent up demand amongst consumers to shop in store to purchase gifts.
“However, it is also an indicator of ‘lockdown fatigue’, whereby after many months of being restricted to their homes, consumers are keen to visit retail stores again, particularly to experience the excitement of Christmas.
“They have become accustomed to the ‘new normal’ that involves wearing face masks in stores and queuing in order to adhere to social distancing rules which we were not all comfortable with in June.”
It also came after a week of torrid news for the High Street, with Debenhams’ closure, Arcadia falling into administration and Primark announcing losses of nearly £500 million.
Springboard’s figures suggest shoppers are more comfortable with visiting out-of-town retail parks than city centre high streets and shopping centres. On Saturday in England, footfall at retail parks was actually slightly higher than last year and only dropped 10% on Sunday.