London shopper footfall slumps before Christmas amid Omicron spread

·2-min read
A quiet Oxford Street at 9am on the Wednesday before Christmas (Ian West/PA) (PA Wire)
A quiet Oxford Street at 9am on the Wednesday before Christmas (Ian West/PA) (PA Wire)

Christmas shopper numbers in central London have tumbled by more than a quarter against pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest figures.

The West End saw footfall decline on Tuesday by 27% compared with the same day in 2019, the New West End Company said.

The figures were nonetheless 10% higher than the Tuesday of the previous week.

However, it showed the typical pre-Christmas rush to buy presents is significantly depressed against pre-pandemic levels as many people choose to remain at home amid soaring coronavirus numbers.

Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company, said on Wednesday: “Once again we are seeing fewer customers on the high street than there were two years ago.

“Retail and leisure businesses will have spent significant amounts of time and money preparing for a busy Christmas period, only for people to understandably stay at home in the face of rising Covid rates.

“It is therefore vital that they receive the financial support required to get them through the winter months – support that must go further than the limited package announced by the Treasury yesterday.

“We must see tangible relief for the retail industry, alongside more substantial measures for leisure businesses.

“Otherwise we run the risk of more much-loved brands being forced to close in the coming months.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak launched £1 billion of financial support packages aimed at the hospitality and leisure sector on Tuesday, but provided limited funding for other impacted areas such as retail.

Rachael Robathan, leader of Westminster City Council, said: “The latest trading figures show just how tough the trading picture is on the streets.

“While we all need to abide by the health advice, the effects of work from home and what amounts to an unofficial lockdown are clearly keeping many people at home.”

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