Christmas Shoppers Head to Market Towns Instead of London High Streets
Shoppers heading to London’s West End for last-minute Christmas gifts are lagging the numbers flocking to market towns across the country, as omicron hits business in the U.K. capital.
Foot traffic to main streets in Britain’s smaller towns leapt by about 20% on both Monday and Tuesday compared to last week, which is more than double the increase recorded in Central London, according to retail consultancy Springboard. More consumers also went to shopping centers, avoiding London’s famous retail meccas of Regent Street and Oxford Street.
The sluggish growth in the capital follows shopper numbers in London’s West End falling by almost a fifth last weekend compared to the same period last year, according to the New West Company, a lobby group for the retail district. In pre-pandemic times shoppers would have headed in their droves to London during the last weekend before Christmas.
Britain is in the grip of a surge in omicron infections with daily cases hitting a record of nearly 120,000 on Thursday, according to data published on the government’s coronavirus dashboard. That’s an increase of more than 10,000 on Wednesday’s caseload - which had also been a record.
The spread of omicron has hit retailers at the worst possible time, because Christmas is when they tend to make most of their annual profit. London is particularly impacted as government advice to work from home has meant office workers have deserted the capital at the same time as shoppers and tourists.
This week’s footfall figures are “synonymous with shoppers staying away from the capital and also large city centers generally,” said Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard.
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