Covid: Christmas Eve shopping footfall slows in city centres amid Omicron fears

An empty Oxford Street on Christmas Eve. Credit: PA

Footfall in central London has dropped more rapidly than elsewhere in the country over the last week as Omicron put a dampener on shopping the day before Christmas.

Central London footfall was nearly a third lower on the morning of Christmas Eve than it was a week earlier, new data from Springboard shows.

But other city centres are also feeling the pinch. Outside London, visits to city centres dropped by 10%, the figures show.

People have refrained from going out amid the rise of Omicron, with over 1.7 million cases of Covid predicted in the UK last week.

Shoppers on Oxford Street on Christmas Eve. Credit: PA

Overall retail footfall - which includes large retail parks, out of town shopping centres and markets - increased by nearly 14%.

“The increased activity in retail parks today will in part be due to trips for food and grocery products as the majority of retail parks have a food store,” Springboard said, as it revealed retail footfall was up by 23.6% compared to last week.

“However, since the start of Covid, retail parks have consistently been more resilient in retaining shoppers as they are large open spaces, with large stores which make shoppers feel safer and less nervous.”

Shoppers in Edinburgh

In shopping centres, footfall rose by 19.6%, compared to just a 6.7% rise in high street footfall.

The data, especially that from London, shows the impact of the Omicron strain of the Covid-19 virus, which has struck the capital especially hard.

Although there are fewer restrictions in place than last year – footfall in central London was today 42% higher than a year earlier – many shoppers are clearly staying at home to avoid the outbreak.

Shoppers at Nottingham Christmas market Credit: PA

Overall, the country’s retailers have seen visitor numbers drop by more than a fifth compared to Christmas Eve 2019, before the pandemic struck.

But the industry is at least recovering from last year, when there were more restrictions in place. Overall footfall is up by more than 30% since then.

It is still yet to be seen if England will be subject to more restrictions after the government ruled out any announcements before Christmas.

The other three nations of the UK have reintroduced some limits on their populations in recent days as a response to Omicron, but none have been specifically aimed at retail.

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