COVID-19: Surge in shopper numbers blamed on 'lockdown fatigue'

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The number of shoppers heading out to retail destinations across the UK surged by 9% last week, according to research which claimed "lockdown fatigue" as a factor.

Market research specialist Springboard said rain and then colder weather failed to put people off heading out in the week to Saturday 23 January despite strict measures in place UK-wide to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Its measure of visitors, known as footfall, was up 10.9% for high streets, 9.2% in shopping centres and 4.5% in retail parks compared to the previous week.

Footfall across all retail destinations was 65% lower than in the same week last year, Springboard said.

Its insights director, Diane Wehrle, said of the figures: "Despite rain and snow last week across much of the UK, footfall rose in retail destinations last week from the week before for the first time in five weeks; perhaps providing the first indications of lockdown fatigue emerging once again.

"The last rise in footfall was in the peak Christmas trading week beginning 13th December, and even then the rise was only a third as large as last week's," she said.

Non-essential physical retail is largely shut under differing rules covering the UK nations.

The restrictions have forced the industry to rely on its online business at a time when post-Christmas sales are winding down ahead of the introduction of spring ranges.

The Springboard report noted the largest leap in activity in the London area.

It said: "The increase in footfall in London (+17.1% in central London and +18.6% in outer London) was nearly double that across high streets generally, and noticeably higher than both the rise in footfall in regional cities outside London (+4.5%) or in smaller high streets (+11.4% in market towns, +9.9% in coastal towns and +9% in historic towns).

"There was significant variation across the UK, with the most modest rise of +0.6% in Wales and +2.2% in Northern Ireland."