The number of shoppers hunting for a bargain in the Boxing Day sales in person has plummeted compared with pre-pandemic levels as the spectre of coronavirus kept many away, new figures show.
Footfall at shopping sites across the UK on Boxing Day up to noon was 45% below the 2019 level, according to data from retail expert Springboard.
In central London footfall was 67% lower than 2019 numbers, while it was 58% below 2019 in other major UK cities.
But market towns fared slightly better, seeing a 12% decrease from 2019 shopping traffic, while there was only a 7% drop in outer London.
New coronavirus restrictions have come into force today in Wales Scotland and Northern Ireland, which may have had an impact on the number of shoppers hitting the sales.
Footfall in Northern Ireland was 73% below the 2019 level, 63% lower in Wales, and almost 50% lower in Scotland.
Despite the drop, large queues formed outside the Trafford Centre in Manchester with shoppers waiting since 8am, while bargain hunters also lined up outside Primark in Birmingham and Zara in Bristol.
There were also queues outside Selfridges, Boots, Primark, Disney and Zara on Oxford Street in London.
Queueing outside the Disney store in Oxford Street, London to shop on her daughter’s behalf, Nic Portway from London told the PA news agency she was not planning on spending much in the sales but was happy to still go to the shops in person despite the rise in Covid cases.
She said: “I am not really surprised by how many people are out because we have got to get on with it, there is always going to be another variant so what do we do?
“We can’t keep locking down every time there is a new variant otherwise everything will just stop.”
Another shopper said she only came out on Boxing Day because her planned Christmas Day online shopping at Zara fell through due to an error on the app.
The woman said: “I was surprised to see this many people out and about, when I walked down Oxford Circus there was hardly anyone around, but then when I arrived at Oxford Street there were big queues, all around the corners.”
Masks were worn by most shoppers on Oxford Street, whether in a queue or walking around but many of the shops were not full of people.