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Huge queues as iconic shopping strip reopens after virus lockdown

Huge crowds have been photographed crowding stores across England as shops re-opened for the first time after 83 days of lockdown.

There was a big queue outside the Nike Town store on London's Oxford Street, the capital's busiest shopping street, with many shoppers ignoring social-distancing rules.

About 400 people, some who had been there for more than an hour, were lined up at 10am (local time) on Monday, according to the Evening Standard.

Nike Town was capping store capacity at 100 people at one time, a staff member told the UK newspaper.

Department stores, clothing retailers, electrical outlets, bookshops and other non-essential stores have been closed since March 23 when Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

People queue to enter Nike Town on Oxford Street following closure due to the coronavirus outbreak in London.
Shops re-opened in London on Monday. Shoppers here are queuing for Nike Town on Oxford Street. Source: Getty Images

The reopening only applies to England, with stores in Scotland and Wales waiting for guidance from their devolved administrations on when they can resume trading. Non-essential stores in Northern Ireland reopened on Friday.

The UK government is encouraging people to go out and spend to help boost the economy, which shrank by a quarter over March and April.

The British Retail Consortium reports the lockdown has cost non-food stores 1.8 billion pounds (AU$3.28 billion) a week in lost revenues.

"The government's priorities have always been lives first, but clearly restoring livelihoods, protecting jobs, making sure our economy can motor and recover again is really important," business minister Paul Scully told UK’s Sky News.

People queue outside Nike Town at Oxford Street, London, as non-essential shops in England open their doors to customers for the first time since coronavirus lockdown restrictions were imposed in March.
The massive line of people, some wearing face masks, outside Nike Town at Oxford Street. Source: Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images
Customers queue to enter Foot Locker in Oxford Street, London as non-essential shops in England open.
Foot traffic was up 41.7 per cent across England's retail stores. Source: AAP

Retail footfall across England's retail destinations had increased by 41.7 per cent by 11am in comparison to last Monday, researcher Springboard said.

Stores look very different, though, as they must observe social distancing regulations. As well as having to queue outside as numbers inside are restricted, shoppers are greeted with hand sanitisers and there are limits on touching and trying out products.

Some chains are reopening all their English stores, while others are taking a phased approach.

Primark, owned by Associated British Foods, reopened all its 153 stores, while Marks & Spencer, which has traded online and kept its food halls open, reopened the majority of its clothing spaces.

Shoppers walk down Oxford Street in London.
More shoppers descend on Oxford Street. Source: AAP

Rival store Next reopened 64 stores, having already reopened 64 homeware stores during the lockdown. John Lewis re-opened just two outlets.

Many small independent stores, where it is difficult to implement safe social distancing practices, remained closed.

Sofie Willmott, an analyst at GlobalData, said while the queues on high streets might look promising for retailers, there were tough times ahead.

"Footfall and spending will take a long time to return to pre-COVID levels," she said.

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