Boxing Day sales fell by more than a quarter compared to a year ago as COVID-19 restrictions knocked footfall 60% according to new data.
Tougher lockdown restrictions across the country has meant that around 40% of England’s population are now living under Tier 4 rules, where non-essential shops must stay closed.
According to retail intelligence agency Springboard, which analyses customer activity in stores, Boxing Day footfall in the UK up to 10am was down 57% compared with figures from 2019.
In Tier four regions in particular, footfall nosedived 77.3% compared to the previous year, and slumped 42.4% and 38.2% in tiers three and two, respectively. Footfall in UK retail destinations was already down 40% on Christmas Eve this year compared to 12 months ago.
Central London was among the most severely impacted with footfall 78.8% lower than last year — a drop of 54.7% from just a week ago — before Tier 4 restrictions were put in place.
Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said: “Sales are not going to be normal in the slightest. That’s really because much of the country is under tier 4 restrictions, which is going to severely impact Boxing Day sales and push people online.
“But there’s a bit of comfort-buying coming into play, because people can’t go out, which is good for retailers. The problem is, for the majority of retailers the sales they get online are much smaller than what they get in store.”
It came as the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) estimated that £1.45bn ($1.94bn) would be taken in physical stores on Saturday, with a further £1.79bn taken online.
Online shopping has been driven higher this year as people have stayed at home to help curb the spread of coronavirus.
Retailers relying on physical retail stores to sell products have faced a major drop in sales since the start of the outbreak. Nearly 125,000 retail jobs have already been lost in the UK in the first eight months of 2020, the CRR revealed.
As many as 13,867 shops have closed permanently, including thousands of small stores employing 32,598 people. Several major chains, such as Debenhams, Monsoon, Oasis, Cath Kidston, were also forced into administration.
Last week UK prime minister Boris Johnson introduced even stricter COVID-19 measures in London, the South East and East of England amid concerns about the spread of a new strain of the virus which may be up to 70% more transmissible.
He introduced a fourth tier of coronavirus restrictions in the regions, as well as unveiling tighter plans around households gathering during Christmas.
Days later the UK government widened Tier 4 restrictions to cover more areas of England from 26 December. A further six million people and around 50,000 firms are estimated to be affected in the bid to stem the spread of COVID-19 and its new variant.
Several parts of England including Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Sussex, Waverley in Surrey, Hampshire bar the New Forest, and all remaining non-Tier 4 areas in Essex were all added to the full-scale lockdown.
Restrictions were also being tightened elsewhere in the UK from Boxing Day, with national lockdowns in Wales and Northern Ireland and most of Scotland.
Official UK coronavirus deaths passed 70,000 on Christmas Day.
Watch: London retail chief: It is heartbreaking to see shops closed on Boxing Day