UK consumers remain cautious about returning to high streets

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

LONDON (Reuters) – The number of shoppers visiting retailers was down by nearly 50% last week compared with a year earlier and the amount of money spent in pubs and restaurants as they reopened last weekend suffered a similar fall, data showed on Tuesday.

The figures came a day before finance minister Rishi Sunak is due to announce his latest moves to steer Britain’s economy away from its 25% collapse in March and April, which media have said might include targeted cuts in value-added tax.

The British Retail Consortium said footfall in shopping streets and centres fell by 49.6% year on year, only a slightly less severe decline than the previous week’s 53.4% slide.

Non-essential retailers were allowed to reopen in England on June 15 while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also relaxed their restrictions now.

“By European standards, the UK’s recovery remains slow, and while safety measures introduced by retailers have been well received by customers, many shoppers are still reluctant to visit physical shopping locations,” the BRC’s chief executive Helen Dickinson said.

Separately on Tuesday, Barclaycard said the total value of transactions across hospitality, leisure and entertainment between July 4-5 was down 45% compared with the same weekend last year.

Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Catherine Evans

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