Growth in UK shopper numbers stalls after lockdown easing rush

FILE PHOTO: Shoppers are seen walking past social distancing signs following the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease, in London, Britain July 1, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) – Shopper numbers in Britain have failed to sustain the immediate growth that followed the reopening of hospitality and leisure businesses in England on July 4 when coronavirus lockdown restrictions were eased, industry data showed on Monday.

Researcher Springboard said shopper numbers, or footfall, across all retail destinations in the United Kingdom increased by 4.5% in the week to July 18 from the week before.

That compared to growth of 10.6% in the week to July 11.

Britain’s retailers, already struggling with high rents, business taxes, tight margins and online competition, were particularly hammered by the lockdown. Thousands of job losses have already been announced.

“Last week demonstrated that the longed-for flood of shoppers returning to bricks and mortar destinations and retail stores once again became a trickle,” said Diane Wehrle, Springboard’s insights director.

All of the rise was driven by high streets and shopping centres, where footfall rose by 6.8% and 4.7% respectively, while it declined by 0.7% in retail parks.

Wehrle noted that while the extent of the rise in footfall from the week before was not as significant as hoped, it was enough to reduce the year-on-year decline to 40.2%, which was the most modest since the start of the lockdown.

Earlier this month finance minister Rishi Sunak said the government would encourage trade by funding discounts on eating out on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August, and also slashed value-added tax for the hospitality and domestic tourism sector.

Britain’s budget forecasters have said the economy could shrink by more than 14% this year if there is lasting damage from the coronavirus.

Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Sarah Young and Catherine Evans

Source Article