Fall in UK shoppers slows as consumers adapt to new COVID-19 curbs

FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians walk past closed retail stores, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Croydon, south London, Britain, September 27, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

LONDON (Reuters) – The number of shoppers at British retail outlets fell only marginally last week as people got used to new measures to curb COVID-19 including a 10 p.m. closure of bars and restaurants, market researcher Springboard said on Monday.

It said shopper numbers, or footfall, fell 0.3% in the week to Oct. 10 from the week before.

That compared with a fall of 3.5% in the previous week – the first complete week of the new curbs imposed by the government on hospitality outlets.

Springboard said footfall rose 0.1% in high streets and 0.4% in shopping centres last week but declined 1.6% in retail parks.

The year-on-year decline was 30.9%.

“Consumers appear to have adapted their behaviour to accommodate the 10 p.m. closure of hospitality,” said Springboard director Diane Wehrle.

However, the government is expected to announce later on Monday further restrictions on the hospitality industry, hitting the north of England hardest, following a spike in COVID-19 infections.

“The impending announcement from (Prime Minister) Boris Johnson later today of tiered restrictions across the UK, with more severe restrictions likely in the north, is likely to drive down footfall further in those areas facing the tightest rules around movement,” said Wehrle.

Britain’s retail and hospitality sectors, already struggling with high rents and business taxes, have been hammered by the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of closures and thousands of job losses have already been announced.

Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Susan Fenton

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