// Footfall in England was up by 38.8% on last week as non-essential shops reopened for the first time in 3 months
// Overall footfall was still around a third less than on the same day last year, Springboard said
// YouGov polling suggested just 40% of people were comfortable to go back into clothes shops
Customers turned out in force yesterday as England’s retail parks, high streets and shopping centres reopened after a three-month shutdown, with footfall rising by more than a third on last week.
Lengthy queues of often-masked shoppers formed, many well before opening times, across major cities as people stepped out to bag a bargain or browse the rails for the first time since lockdown was enforced in late March.
Shoppers have been encouraged to be sensible and adhere to new hygiene measures and social distancing, with a government minister saying they are beginning to reopen the economy “gradually and carefully”.
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While shoppers generally appeared to be keeping to the two-metre distancing rule as they queued, there were images of a tightly-packed crowd outside the Nike flagship store on London’s Oxford Street.
Long lines were also seen at Primark stores across the country, with dozens of keen shoppers waiting outside branches in Birmingham, Derby, Liverpool and Nottingham.
Meanwhile, people heading into the Apple store on Regent Street in central London had their temperatures checked and were told they must wear face coverings when inside.
Figures recorded up to 5pm yesterday showed that footfall in England was up by nearly 40 per cent on last week.
Total retail footfall across high streets, shopping centres and retail parks increased by 38.8 per cent in comparison with a week ago, the latest data from retail experts Springboard indicated.
On England’s high streets alone, footfall rose by 50.5 per cent on Monday compared with last week, while smaller rises were seen at retail parks and shopping centres.
However, footfall across all retail destinations in England was still around a third less than on the same day last year, Springboard said.
Meanwhile, results of YouGov polling carried out earlier this month suggested just 40 per cent of people were comfortable to go back into clothes shops, and only 48 per cent think they would be able to stay the required two metres away from other shoppers.
Some 41 per cent of people said they believe it is about the right time for the shops to reopen, but 39 per cent said it was too soon.
Oliver Rowe, director of reputation research at YouGov – which carried out four surveys between June 2 and 11, involving between 1700 and 4000 people – said the results show “there is a lot of work to be done yet to convince shoppers that it’s business as usual”.
Small business minister Paul Scully insisted it was safe to shop, noting the new looks many stores will have as they attempt to ensure social distancing and good hygiene among staff and customers.
“The high street is going to be a different place to what it was before, with the one-way systems, with the hand sanitisers, and with people not trying clothes on in the same way,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“But, nonetheless, it is safe to shop. I would encourage people to be sensible, work with the people in the shop but do go out and shop, and start opening our economy gradually and carefully.”
Commuters were pictured wearing masks at stations and on trains and buses across the country as face coverings on public transport became mandatory.
With official figures showing the economy shrank by a fifth in April, ministers are desperate to get businesses going again to stave off another wave of job losses.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged some people may be nervous about returning to the high street after so long away but insisted they “should shop and shop with confidence”.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak – who is reported to be considering a VAT cut to stimulate spending – acknowledged further redundancies were inevitable as the government’s furlough scheme begins to unwind from August.
Ministers are also under intense pressure from Conservative MPs to go further by easing the two-metre social distancing rule so the hard-pressed hospitality sector can also reopen.
Johnson confirmed at the weekend that he had ordered a “comprehensive” Downing Street review of the regulation and his official spokesman confirmed it will be completed in the “coming weeks”.
The PM has said the falling numbers of Covid-19 cases meant there was a greater “margin for manoeuvre” as the chances of coming into contact with someone with the disease diminished.
Sunak has said it would be ministers, not scientists, who would make the decisions on any easing, but the PM’s spokesman said the review “will draw on advice from scientific and medical experts as well as economists and papers from Sage”.
The two-metre review announcement comes as the World Health Organisation urged the government not to lift the lockdown until it is proven its widely criticised coronavirus contact-tracing system works.
with PA Wires