UK shopper numbers rise for fifth straight week despite lockdown

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FILE PHOTO: Christmas shopping amid COVID-19 outbreak in London

LONDON (Reuters) - The number of people heading out to shops across Britain increased by 6.8% last week versus the previous week, a fifth straight week of uplift despite the national lockdown, market researcher Springboard said on Monday.

It said shopper numbers, or footfall, in the week to Feb. 20 was up 10.5% in high streets, 4.5% in shopping centres and 1.2% in retail parks.

"You could be fooled into thinking that last week was a normal (school) half term week rather than the eighth week of a national lockdown, as footfall continued to rise for the fifth consecutive week," said Springboard director Diane Wehrle.

She said the data shows evidence of pent-up demand amongst shoppers to visit retail destinations and indicated a surge back to stores when non-essential retail is allowed to reopen.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered England into a third national lockdown on Jan. 4 to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases that threatened to overwhelm parts of the health system.

The rules in England mean schools are closed to most pupils, people should work from home if possible, and all hospitality and non-essential shops are closed. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland imposed similar measures.

Essential shops allowed to stay open include food outlets and home improvement retailers.

Later on Monday Johnson will announce a roadmap out of lockdown.

Despite the increase from last week, footfall across all retail destinations remained 62.1% lower than in the same week last year, Springboard said.

(Reporting by James Davey, editing by Estelle Shirbon and Raissa Kasolowsky)