UK shopper numbers fall for first time in seven weeks

FILE PHOTO: Shoppers wearing face masks at a market in Cambridge

LONDON (Reuters) – The number of people heading out to shops across Britain fell by 0.7% in the week to March 6 versus the previous week, a first decline in seven weeks, market researcher Springboard said on Monday.

It said that whilst shopper numbers, or footfall, declined by 3.3% in high streets, it rose by 0.9% in shopping centres and 3.2% in retail parks as parents visited large food stores in preparation for a return to school in England.

“For the first time in seven weeks footfall in UK retail destinations declined from the week before. However, the drop was a marginal one, and was driven wholly by high streets,” said Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard.

England entered a third national lockdown on Jan. 4 to stem a surge in COVID-19 cases that threatened to overwhelm parts of the health system.

The rules in England closed schools to most pupils, people were told to work from home if possible, and all hospitality and non-essential shops were closed. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland imposed similar measures.

Essential shops allowed to stay open included food outlets and home improvement retailers.

On Feb. 22 Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a roadmap out of lockdown.

Schools in England opened on Monday and non-essential shops are scheduled to open again on April 12.

Springboard said footfall was 57.9% lower than the same week last year.

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Alistair Smout and Louise Heavens)

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