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Brits are hesitant about visiting their local high streets even as Christmas fast approaches, amid fears that the Omicron variant is spreading quickly.
Footfall over the past weekend, regarded as the peak shopping weekend of the year, declined by 8.5% in Central London and 6.4% in cities outside of the capital.
This meant that in high streets across the UK footfall declined 2.6% on the last weekend before Christmas when many usually do their last minute shopping. This was according to the latest data by Springboard.
Over the weekend, footfall rose by only 0.8% on Saturday and dropped by 1.4% on Sunday.
Last week’s footfall was up by 15.6% on Tuesday but rose by just 2.6% on Friday. Springboard’s insights director Diane Wehrle put this down to “growing nervousness of consumers” about the new variant.
She said the data “provided a forewarning for subdued performance of bricks and mortar stores and destinations over the weekend.”
But during the same weekend, footfall was up 3.4% in market towns, 0.5% in shopping centres and 4.7% in retail parks. This will partly have been due to shoppers trying to get a head start on buying Christmas food and groceries – the vast majority of retail parks have a food store on them.
It could also be because retail parks are “COVID friendly”, being open-air nature with larger stores.
“Despite the introduction of Plan B guidance to work from home and the significant rise in COVID infections, footfall rose last week across UK retail destinations,” said Wehrle.
“The nervousness of shoppers about making in-person shopping visits inevitably meant that large city centres lost out to smaller high streets, particularly over the weekend.”
Overall, footfall across UK retail destinations rose by 5.5% from the week before and was 22.5% higher than in the same week last year. However, it was 19.1% lower when compared to pre-pandemic levels of 2019.
The data comes as Britain's cabinet is set to meet as pressure grows on prime minister Boris Johnson to curb the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant with social restrictions before Christmas.
The UK has reported record levels of COVID-19 cases, with officials and ministers warning things could get worse.
Earlier it was reporter that retail footfall was down in November despite hopes that the Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounts before the holiday season would boost sales.