High street shopper numbers surge as stores reopen

Shoppers flooded back on to English high streets as non-essential stores reopened after the four-week national lockdown.

Initial data from retail research firm Springboard shows shopping destinations across England saw footfall surge by 64.5% on Wednesday morning, compared with the same day last week.

High streets received a much-needed boost after a grim week for the sector, which has seen thousands of jobs put at risk at Arcadia Group, Debenhams and Bonmarche.

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Shoppers hit high streets as lockdown ends
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Shoppers hit high streets as lockdown ends
People queueing outside Primark in Northumberland street, Newcastle, as non-essential shops in England open their doors to customers for the first time after the second national lockdown ends and England has a strengthened tiered system of regional coronavirus restrictions.
Shoppers walk past the Christmas market being erected in the market square in Nottingham city centre, as non-essential shops in England open their doors to customers for the first time after the second national lockdown ends and England has a strengthened tiered system of regional coronavirus restrictions.
People queueing outside Card Factory in Farnborough, on the day non-essential shops in England open their doors to customers for the first time after the second national lockdown ends and England has a strengthened tiered system of regional coronavirus restrictions.
Harriet Henry, manager of The Tea Room in Knutsford, hangs an open sign outside her cafe, as non-essential shops in England open their doors to customers for the first time after the second national lockdown ends and England has a strengthened tiered system of regional coronavirus restrictions.
Shoppers outside Primark in Nottingham city centre, as non-essential shops in England open their doors to customers for the first time after the second national lockdown ends and England has a strengthened tiered system of regional coronavirus restrictions.
Shoppers leaving Primark in Birmingham as non-essential shops in England open their doors to customers for the first time after the second national lockdown ends and England has a strengthened tiered system of regional coronavirus restrictions.
Shoppers queue outside Primark in Nottingham city centre, as non-essential shops in England open their doors to customers for the first time after the second national lockdown ends and England has a strengthened tiered system of regional coronavirus restrictions.
Shoppers in Northumberland street, Newcastle, as non-essential shops in England open their doors to customers for the first time after the second national lockdown ends and England has a strengthened tiered system of regional coronavirus restrictions.
Shoppers leaving Primark in Birmingham as non-essential shops in England open their doors to customers for the first time after the second national lockdown ends and England has a strengthened tiered system of regional coronavirus restrictions.
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02: Crowds of shoppers are seen on Oxford Street on December 2, 2020 in London, England. Last night MPs voted in favour of government proposals to enter England into a tiered system of lockdown beginning at midnight. Residents of Tier Two - High Alert can socialise with anyone they live with or who is in their support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place. Outdoors they must observe the rule of six. Pubs and bars must close, unless operating as restaurants. Hospitality venues can only serve alcohol with substantial meals and must close between 11pm and 5am with last orders called at 10pm. Organised indoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes will be permitted if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with. Schools remain open. (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)
Shoppers and pedestrians walk along Oxford Street in the main high-street shopping district of London on December 2, 2020, as England emerges from a month-long lockdown to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. - England on December 2 exited a month-long lockdown into a new 3-tiered system of curbs with non-essential retail, leisure centres and salons all reopening but with some sectors, including hospitality, seeing tighter restrictions. (Photo by Niklas HALLE'N / AFP) (Photo by NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP via Getty Images)
Shoppers and pedestrians are seen in London's main high-street shopping district on Oxford Street in London on December 2, 2020 as England emerges from a month-long lockdown to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. - England on December 2 exited a month-long lockdown into a new 3-tiered system of curbs with non-essential retail, leisure centres and salons all reopening but with some sectors, including hospitality, seeing tighter restrictions. (Photo by Niklas HALLE'N / AFP) (Photo by NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02: Shoppers walk past a closed pub displaying political signage in the city centre as Manchester enters Tier 3 on December 02, 2020 in Manchester, England. Last night MPs voted in favour of government proposals to enter England into a tiered system of lockdown beginning at midnight. Areas in Tier Three - 'Very High Alert' - sees people not able to meet socially indoors or outdoors with anybody they do not live with or have formed a support bubble with. Hospitality settings, such as bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants must close except for takeaway, delivery and click and collect services. Schools remain open. (Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)
Shoppers and pedestrians are seen in London's main high-street shopping district on Oxford Street in London on December 2, 2020 as England emerges from a month-long lockdown to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. - England on December 2 exited a month-long lockdown into a new 3-tiered system of curbs with non-essential retail, leisure centres and salons all reopening but with some sectors, including hospitality, seeing tighter restrictions. (Photo by Niklas HALLE'N / AFP) (Photo by NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02: Shoppers walk past a Debenhams store on Market Street in the city centre as Manchester enters Tier 3 on December 02, 2020 in Manchester, England. Last night MPs voted in favour of government proposals to enter England into a tiered system of lockdown beginning at midnight. Areas in Tier Three - 'Very High Alert' - sees people not able to meet socially indoors or outdoors with anybody they do not live with or have formed a support bubble with. Hospitality settings, such as bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants must close except for takeaway, delivery and click and collect services. Schools remain open. (Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02: Shoppers are seen on Market Street in the city centre as Manchester enters Tier 3 on December 02, 2020 in Manchester, England. Last night MPs voted in favour of government proposals to enter England into a tiered system of lockdown beginning at midnight. Areas in Tier Three - 'Very High Alert' - sees people not able to meet socially indoors or outdoors with anybody they do not live with or have formed a support bubble with. Hospitality settings, such as bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants must close except for takeaway, delivery and click and collect services. Schools remain open. (Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02: Shoppers walk past a Debenhams store on Market Street in the city centre as Manchester enters Tier 3 on December 02, 2020 in Manchester, England. Last night MPs voted in favour of government proposals to enter England into a tiered system of lockdown beginning at midnight. Areas in Tier Three - 'Very High Alert' - sees people not able to meet socially indoors or outdoors with anybody they do not live with or have formed a support bubble with. Hospitality settings, such as bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants must close except for takeaway, delivery and click and collect services. Schools remain open. (Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02: Shoppers are seen on Market Street in the city centre as Manchester enters Tier 3 on December 02, 2020 in Manchester, England. Last night MPs voted in favour of government proposals to enter England into a tiered system of lockdown beginning at midnight. Areas in Tier Three - 'Very High Alert' - sees people not able to meet socially indoors or outdoors with anybody they do not live with or have formed a support bubble with. Hospitality settings, such as bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants must close except for takeaway, delivery and click and collect services. Schools remain open. (Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02: Shoppers walk past COVID-19 signage displayed on the Arndale in the city centre as Manchester enters Tier 3 on December 02, 2020 in Manchester, England. Last night MPs voted in favour of government proposals to enter England into a tiered system of lockdown beginning at midnight. Areas in Tier Three - 'Very High Alert' - sees people not able to meet socially indoors or outdoors with anybody they do not live with or have formed a support bubble with. Hospitality settings, such as bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants must close except for takeaway, delivery and click and collect services. Schools remain open. (Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)
Shoppers are seen in London's main high-street shopping district on Regent Street with non-essential shops reopening in London on December 2, 2020 as England emerges from a month-long lockdown to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. - England on December 2 exited a month-long lockdown into a new 3-tiered system of curbs with non-essential retail, leisure centres and salons all reopening but with some sectors, including hospitality, seeing tighter restrictions. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02: Shoppers walk along Northumberland Street in Newcastle city centre on December 02, 2020 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Today is the first day of the new Tier system introduced at the end of the second Coronavirus lockdown to prevent against further spread of the Coronavirus. Newcastle has been put into Tier 3 restrictions. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02: Shoppers walk along Northumberland Street in Newcastle city centre on December 02, 2020 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Today is the first day of the new Tier system introduced at the end of the second Coronavirus lockdown to prevent against further spread of the Coronavirus. Newcastle has been put into Tier 3 restrictions. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02: A woman enjoys the artificial snow-fall as Covent Garden welcomes back shoppers and diners after UK lockdown at Covent Garden on December 02, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 2: All non-essential shops open after national lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19), formally lifted due to upcoming Christmas in London, United Kingdom on December 2 2020. Four weeks nationwide lockdown ended today and new tier system entered into force in the country easing restrictions on travel and shopping. (Photo by Tayfun Salci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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Springboard said high street footfall before 12pm was 63% higher week-on-week, while shopping centres saw a 100.7% surge.

Market towns particularly benefited from the reopening of shops, reporting a 96.8% jump in footfall, while shopper numbers in central London jumped by 59.4%.

But footfall across the country was still significantly lower than it was on the same day of last year.

The data shows footfall across shopping destinations in England was down 24.1% against the same period last year.

Figures from Barclaycard Payments show credit card sales were lower than on Black Friday despite the reopening, as online sales slumped in the face of shops opening their doors again.

It reported a 16.9% decrease in the volume of payments compared to the same period on Black Friday.

Rob Cameron, chief executive of Barclaycard Payments, said: "With physical stores only having been open for a few hours, it's not surprising that today is tracking behind Black Friday in transactions.

"We expect the gap between Black Friday and 'Black Wednesday' to narrow as we continue through the day, as more shoppers hit the high streets – especially with many retailers extending their opening hours to take advantage of the new social distancing guidelines."

Early birds had hit the stores to avoid the queues first thing on Wednesday.

Droves of customers queued early outside store giants such as Primark and Nike Town in London's Oxford Street on what has been dubbed "Wild Wednesday".

Jordan Roberts, 19, was among a dozen people queuing outside Selfridges in the popular shopping destination before the flagship department store opened its doors.

Miss Roberts said she was doing her Christmas shopping, adding: "It feels more enjoyable being in a store and things run out of stock online. It's good to have our freedom back."

The majority of England is now under Tier 2 and 3 of the new Covid-19 restrictions, which limit social contact between households but allow non-essential stores to open.

Shoppers leaving Primark in Birmingham (Jacob King/PA)
Shoppers leaving Primark in Birmingham (Jacob King/PA)

London shopper Tamara Rass, 44, said she hit the shops early as she expected them to get busy.

She said: "For me, it's a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel and getting back to normality.

"There are things in store that I can't get online and I like to treat my daughter once a month."

Business leaders hope the British high street will be given a boost in the final weeks before Christmas, as retailers battle to recover from crippling restrictions during the pandemic.

But the jobs of nearly 25,000 staff at Sir Philip Green's Arcadia Group hang in the balance, with fashion chain Bonmarche the latest retailer to collapse into administration for the second time in just over a year.

Selfridges stores director Maeve Wall told the PA news agency, she said: "It's never a good time when you hear other department stores and brands on the high street closing.

Shoppers queuing
People queueing outside the Nike Town store in London's Oxford Circus (Kirsty O'Connor/PA)

"It's definitely a sad period of time and particularly to hear so many potential job losses.

"Retail this year, along with hospitality, it's been really challenging and Christmas is such a big part of the retail calendar.

"The next couple of weeks we have ahead of us, hopefully the measures put in place across the country, people will come out and feel safe."

Across the West End, a few shoppers were scattered around Covent Garden where independent stallholders eagerly awaited their first customers after nearly a month.

Jane Ireland has had her family-run stall, selling hand-painted silk ties, for 40 years.

On England coming out of lockdown, she said: "It's a little bit of hope but I'm not that optimistic.

"There are no tourists around and we depend on them in this part of London."

She said the tiering system also poses challenges as regular customers from outside of London are unlikely to travel to the capital.

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(PA Graphics)

"A lot of customers over the years would come down from places like Scotland to go to the theatres and then here, but people can't leave their tiers," she said.

"It's chipping away at potential customers.

"When theatres open up again we might get more of a buzz."

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