Despite high streets across England experiencing a festive flurry on the first Saturday since the second national lockdown was lifted, figures show around a third fewer people visited shops compared to this time last year.
Shoppers headed out in their droves on the first Saturday of the month to get ahead with Christmas shopping, with busy scenes reported in York, Colchester and Bournemouth.
However, data from retail analysts ShopperTrak shows footfall was down 29% year-on-year as many erred on the side of caution despite non-essential shops being allowed to reopen from Wednesday.
Andy Sumpter, retail consultant at ShopperTrak, said retailers will be hoping “pent-up demand” will continue through until the last Saturday before Christmas – dubbed Super Saturday – on December 19, if shops are to have any hope of a Merry Christmas.
While Saturday did see shopper traffic increase by 193% nationally week-on-week, Mr Sumpter said “many are still keenly feeling the impact of lockdown”.
He said: “Instilling confidence in physical shopping journeys and reassuring consumers that stores are safe will be the cornerstone to ensuring shoppers keep returning, not just to support shops, but also their local communities that rely on the high street.”
There was a drop recorded in numbers heading to London’s West End, home to one of the world’s most popular shopping destinations.
Despite queues forming for Oxford Street shops on Saturday and arrests outside Harrods as a large crowd tried to enter the Knightsbridge store, numbers were down compared to 2019.
The New West End Company, which represents 600 businesses in London’s shopping district, said it saw footfall decline by 37% year-on-year.
A spokesman said: “Safety is our top priority, and since lockdown has lifted we have been regularly refreshing protective measures such as hygiene hubs and clear street markings to promote social distancing.”
Shopper numbers plummeted last month with the reintroduction of tighter coronavirus restrictions, with data from trade association the British Retail Consortium and ShopperTrak showing footfall for November across the UK dived by 65.4% compared with the same month last year.